The first-ever fully private crewed mission to the International Space Station will get to spend 12 extra hours aboard the orbiting lab.
The four astronauts of Ax-1, a mission organized by Houston company Axiom Space, had been scheduled to depart the station in their SpaceX Dragon capsule at 10:35 a.m. EDT (1435 GMT) on Tuesday (April 19) and splash down off the coast of Florida early Wednesday morning (April 20).
But bad weather is expected in the splashdown zone at that time, so Ax-1’s return to Earth has been delayed by half a day.
“Weather permitting, the four-member private astronaut crew now is targeted to undock at about 10 p.m. [EDT] Tuesday, April 19, to begin the journey home with splashdown off the coast of Florida no earlier than approximately 3:24 p.m. EDT Wednesday, April 20,” NASA officials wrote in an update on Monday (April 18).
SpaceX Ax-1 private mission to space station: Live updates
Ax-1 launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on April 8 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The mission is commanded Axiom employee and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría.
The other three crewmembers are Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, each of whom reportedly paid about $55 million for his seat.
Ax-1 will be just the beginning for Axiom Space, if all goes according to plan. The company has booked several other crewed missions to the space station with SpaceX. And, beginning in late 2024, Axiom plans to launch several modules to the ISS. These modules will eventually detach, becoming an independent private space station in Earth orbit.
Ax-1 will be coming down at a busy time for SpaceX. Elon Musk’s company is gearing up to launch a big batch of its Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, which is next door to KSC, on Thursday (April 21).
And on Saturday (April 23), SpaceX plans to launch the Crew-4 mission for NASA from KSC. Crew-4 will send three NASA astronauts and a European spaceflyer to the ISS for a lengthy stay.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.