SpaceX launches Ax-2 private astronaut mission to station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT) today (May 21) from historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, kicking off Houston-based company Axiom Space's four-person Ax-2 mission.

Following a successful liftoff and staging, the first stage of Ax-2's Falcon 9 rocket performed a boost-back burn to return to SpaceX's Landing Zone-1, which is not far from Pad 39A. The booster touched down safely at the site about seven minutes and 45 seconds after launch.

Ax-2 is the second spaceflight for Freedom, which also flew SpaceX's Crew-4 mission to the orbiting lab for NASA. (Falcon 9 first stages are reusable as well, but the Ax-2 booster was flying for the first time.) The flight marks the tenth human spaceflight for SpaceX.

This is Axiom's second privately crewed launch to the ISS, after Ax-1 in April 2022, but it comes with a lot of firsts. Whitson, who is Axiom's director of human spaceflight, is the first woman to command a private crewed mission to space. (She was also the first woman to serve as commander aboard the ISS.)

Two members of the Ax-2 crew were picked from Saudi Arabia's first astronaut class. Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi will be the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS, and Barnawi is the first Saudi woman to ever travel to space.

Source: www.space.com


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