The hardware that will launch the first-ever all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station has made its way to the pad.
On Tuesday (April 5), SpaceX rolled the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will fly the Ax-1 mission out to Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. SpaceX posted photos of the rollout on Twitter (opens in new tab).
Ax-1, which was organized by Houston company Axiom Space, is scheduled to lift off on Friday (April 8). It will send three paying customers and Axiom employee Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who’s commanding the mission, to the orbiting lab for an eight-day stay.
Photos: The first space tourists
Live updates: The Ax-1 private mission to the International Space Station
Private citizens have visited the station before, but they’ve always flown alongside government astronauts — specifically, employees of Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space agency. Ax-1 will therefore blaze a new trail.
The coming mission isn’t the first all-private crewed trip to Earth orbit, however. That distinction belongs to Inspiration4, a SpaceX flight purchased and commanded by tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman. He and three other people circled our planet for nearly three days last September aboard a Dragon capsule, but they didn’t meet up with the space station.
Ax-1’s launch had been targeted for Sunday (April 3), but it was pushed back to accommodate the “wet dress rehearsal” of NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission, which was held that same weekend at KSC’s Pad 39B.
The Artemis 1 test didn’t wrap up on Sunday as planned, however; it was delayed and then halted by technical issues and will resume sometime after Ax-1 gets off the ground.
SpaceX has another crewed Dragon mission coming up this month as well — Crew-4, which will send three NASA astronauts and one European spaceflyer to the space station for a lengthy stay. Crew-4 is currently scheduled to launch from Pad 39A on April 20.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).