SpaceX launches first Saudi astronauts to Space Station on 2nd private Axiom mission


MAY 21, 2023

SpaceX on Monday successfully launched the second private mission by Axiom Space to the International Space Station (ISS). The Crew Dragon spacecraft with four astronauts lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The spacecraft carried two Saudi astronauts to Space Station, which included the first female astronauts from the country along with two others.

Ahead of the launch, SpaceX wrote on Twitter, “T-35 minutes until liftoff; propellant loading of Falcon 9 has begun, and Dragon’s escape system is armed.”

Commander Peggy Whitson, Pilot John Shoffner, and Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been launched to the Space Station. The four will work to further the development of the commercial space station envisioned by Axiom Space, a private aerospace company.

The four astronauts will be working and living in the orbiting laboratory to implement a full manifest of science, outreach, and commercial activities.

“I am honoured and happy to represent all the dreams and all the hopes of the people in Saudia Arabia. And also the hopes and dreams of all the women in the region,” said Barnawi during a pre-launch conference streamed by Axiom on YouTube.

The four astronauts, during their stay in the zero-gravity lab, will conduct key experiments to study how microgravity affects stem cells and thick tissue constructs. Their work is aimed at detecting diseases and developing therapies for people on Earth. The four-member team is set to carry out some 20 experiments while on the ISS.

The four astronauts will join three Russians, three Americans, and Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi, who was the first Arab national to go on a spacewalk last month.

Axiom Space carried out its first private astronaut mission to the ISS in April 2022, sending three businessmen, and former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria to spend 17 days in orbit as part of Ax-1.

Courtesy/Source: India Today / PTI