Axiom Space’s Ax-2 Mission to Launch to the ISS with Private Astronauts and Stem Cell Experiments
Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission is set to launch from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 21. The four crew members will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission will last for eight days, during which the crew will conduct more than 20 scientific experiments, including growing stem cells in microgravity. Ax-2 will be the second all-private astronaut mission to the ISS, following Axiom's first mission in April 2022. Axiom Space is a private astronaut training and mission management provider based in Houston and is aiming to provide universal access to low Earth orbit. The company is also developing its own commercial space station, Axiom Station, which could launch before the end of the decade.
The Ax-2 mission is led by Peggy Whitson, Axiom's director of human spaceflight and a former NASA astronaut. John Shoffner, an Axiom investor, will serve as the pilot, while Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, members of Saudi Arabia's first astronaut class, will serve as mission specialists. The mission is set to pave the way for Axiom's plan to attach a module of their station to the ISS by 2025.
In addition to the Ax-2 mission, scientists will be sending stem cells to space in early May to investigate the effect of microgravity on stem cells. Cedars-Sinai investigators, in collaboration with Axiom Space, are planning to explore whether microgravity can make it easier and more efficient to produce large batches of stem cells. For the first time, NASA is financing a mission where astronauts will grow stem cells in space.
The ISS is a unique facility that serves as a laboratory for conducting research and developing technology that cannot be achieved on Earth. The ISS National Lab, being a public service enterprise, provides researchers with the opportunity to utilize this facility for the betterment of life on Earth, development of space-based business models, promotion of science literacy in upcoming workforce and growth of a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the space station are available to support non-NASA science, technology, and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. CASIS, Inc. is responsible for managing the ISS National Lab through a Cooperative Agreement with NASA. This allows researchers to take advantage of the unique research environment provided by the permanent microgravity, extreme conditions, and diverse perspectives offered by low Earth orbit.
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2. “Axiom Space gears up for second private human spaceflight mission to ISS” Yahoo Finance Australia, 11 May. 2023, https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/axiom-space-gears-second-private-201618827.html
3. “Cedars-Sinai to Send Stem Cells to the Space Station to Aid in the Advancement of Stem Cell-Based Therapies” Yahoo Finance, 16 May. 2023, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/cedars-sinai-send-stem-cells-170300089.html