HAWTHORNE (CNS) - Hawthorne-based SpaceX is scheduled to take part in another historic milestone in space exploration today, when it attempts to launch the first all-private mission to the International Space Station.
SpaceX will use one of its Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragon capsules to carry out Axiom Space's Ax-1 mission, which will send four people to the orbiting outpost. The launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida is scheduled for 8:17 a.m. California time.
Flying in the capsule will be mission commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and vice president of Axiom Space; pilot Larry Connor, a real estate entrepreneur and investor; mission specialist Eytan Stibbe, an investor and philanthropist; and mission specialist Mark Pathy, an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
López-Alegría flew into space four times during his NASA career, including three space shuttle flights and one trip to the ISS aboard a Soyuz mission.
The crew will spend a total of 10 days in space -- two traveling and eight aboard the ISS. But they are expected to do more than just sight-seeing. According to Axiom Space, they will take part in more than 25 experiments aboard the station, along with educational outreach.
Connor will take part in research projects in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, as well as providing ``instructional lessons'' for students at Dayton Early College Academy in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
Pathy will collaborate with the Canadian Space Agency and Montreal Children's Hospital for research efforts aboard the station.
Stibbe will take part in research efforts with the Ramon Foundation and Israel Space Agency, and take part in educational activities.
Houston-based Axiom Space was founded in 2016 with the ultimate goal of building a ``free-flying commercial space station.''
``We sought to put together a crew for this historic mission that had demonstrated a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of the people on Earth, and I'm glad to say we've done that with this group,'' Axiom Space President/CEO Michael Suffredini said in a statement when the mission was announced last year.
``This is just the first of several Axiom Space crews whose private missions to the International Space Station will truly inaugurate an expansive future for humans in space -- and make a meaningful difference in the world when they return home.''
The crew will join the seven current professional astronauts living on the station -- three Americans, one German and three Russian cosmonauts.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket being used in the mission has flown four previous missions for SpaceX, which has pioneered the reuse of rocket boosters to cut costs of future flights. The Dragon capsule that will carry the crew has been used in two previous missions to the Space Station.
After Friday's launch, SpaceX will again attempt to recover the Falcon 9 booster by landing it on a droneship -- dubbed ``A Shortfall of Gravitas'' -- floating in the Atlantic Ocean.