Axiom Mission-2 (Ax-2) Cleared for Launch – ISS Crew Prepares for Arrival of Private Astronauts

Spacewalkers Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin ISS

Cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin work outside the International Space Station to deploy and activate a radiator on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module during a five-hour and 14-minute spacewalk. From top to bottom, the main station elements are Nauka, with the European robotic arm and an experiment airlock attached, the Prichal docking module, and the Soyuz MS-23 crew ship. Credit: NASA

The second private astronaut mission, Axiom Mission-2 (Ax-2), has been cleared for launch to the International Space Station, led by veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson. The Ax-2 crew will engage in research and commercial activities while the current ISS crew continues microgravity science experiments and maintenance activities.

Mission managers have given the go for the launch of the second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, May 21, 2023. The Expedition 69 crew is preparing to meet the new astronauts while also keeping up its human research, maintaining orbital lab systems, and stowing spacewalk tools.

Axiom Space, SpaceX, and NASA managers met on Monday and agreed to launch four Axiom Mission-2 (Ax-2) crew members to the space station at 5:37 p.m. EDT on Sunday. Veteran astronaut and commander Peggy Whitson will lead first-time space flyers Pilot John Shoffner and Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and guide it to an automated docking at 9:24 a.m. on Monday. The private astronauts will enter the station through the Harmony module’s space-facing port and begin several days of research, outreach, and commercial activities before returning to Earth.

International Space Station Pictured From SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly around of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8, 2021. Credit: NASA

Four station flight engineers joined each other on Tuesday afternoon and reviewed the Ax -2 mission schedule. NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, Frank Rubio, and Woody Hoburg, along with UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi familiarized themselves with the upcoming mission activities and reviewed how the crews will coordinate during docked operations.

In the meantime, the seven space station residents continued ongoing microgravity science and kept up the maintenance of the orbital outpost. Spacesuit work and cargo transfers also rounded out the day.

Bowen was back on human research Tuesday morning servicing samples in a centrifuge for a study exploring the immunity systems of astronauts. Rubio powered on the Astrobee free-flying robotic assistants and then removed experiment hardware from inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock.

Hoburg and Alneyadi spent most of the day working on the Tranquility module’s treadmill. The duo rotated the exercise rack from its stowage position to gain access to its internal electronics components for inspection and cleaning. Alneyadi then spent a few moments testing the operations of the Astrobees for an upcoming student competition to control the robotic devices.

Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin continued cleaning up after last week’s spacewalk. The duo reconfigured the Poisk airlock and stowed the tools and hardware used during the five-hour and 14-minute excursion that saw the deployment of a radiator on the Nauka science module. Prokopyev also partnered with Roscosmos Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev unpacking cargo from the ISS Progress 83 cargo craft, while Petelin also explored how weightlessness affects the cardiovascular system.

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