A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying four non-professional astronauts, the first all-commercial, non-governmental crew to visit the International Space Station, undocked from the outpost on Sunday, heading for re-entry and splashdown on Monday to cap an extended period of 17 days mission.
Capsule commander Michael López-Alegría and co-pilot Larry Connor, flanked by Israeli Eytan Stibbe on the left and Canadian Mark Pathy on the right, undocked from the space station’s Harmony module at 9:10 p.m. EDT and slowly retreated.
“Thank you again for all the support throughout this incredible adventure we’ve had, even longer and more exciting than we thought,” López-Alegría told ground crews by radio shortly after the incident. undocking. “We really appreciate your professionalism. And with that, we will sign.”
After spending one last “night” in space, Crew Dragon airmen planned to watch for a nine-minute automated firing of the spacecraft’s brake flares at 12:16 p.m. Monday, slowing the craft about 132 mph to drop the other side of orbit in the atmosphere.
After a half-hour freefall, the Crew Dragon will plunge back into the perceptible atmosphere and descend through the heartland of America along a northwest to southeast path to a landing site. off Jacksonville, Florida. Splashdown is scheduled for 1:06 p.m.
The landing will comethanks to high winds and rough seas in available splash zones and to avoid conflicts with a Russian spacewalk carried out last week. Good weather was expected on Monday.
SpaceX landing staff stationed nearby will be ready to transport the capsule to a company recovery ship and assist return station pilots exit the spacecraft for initial medical checks and phone calls by satellite to family and friends. They will then be transported ashore by helicopter.
As this is a private charter, NASA will have no on-site role in the recovery.
The Axiom-1 mission is the sixth piloted flight of a SpaceX Crew Dragon, the second carrying non-professional astronauts on a commercial mission to low Earth orbit, and the first to conduct an entirely commercial visit to the space station.
The mission was carried out with the cooperation and encouragement of NASA, as part of an agency initiative to stimulate private sector use of the International Space Station and the eventual development of commercial research stations. in Earth orbit.
Unlike wealthy “space tourists” who have previously visited the space station while escorted by Russian cosmonauts, the AX-1 crew performed multiple biomedical experiments, technology demonstrations and activities of public awareness, reflecting the type of work future NASA-sanctioned commercial aircrew are expected to do. perform aboard the space station.
Houston-based Axiom Space paid for the mission, purchasing the Falcon 9 rocket thatand pay for the use of Crew Dragon and SpaceX training and ground support. The company also paid NASA for space station resources and professional laboratory team support.
López-Alegría, former astronaut and vice president of Axiom, flew as the company’s representative while Connor, Pathy, and Stibbe paid for their seats. No cost figures have been released by Axiom, NASA or the three paying passengers.
Axiom Space plans to launch several “private astronaut missions” as the company develops research and habitation modules that will initially be attached to the International Space Station, then fly on their own as a self-contained laboratory complex after the withdrawal of the ISS.