Credit: Axiom Space / NASA

NASA and its international partners have approved the crew for Axiom Space’s second private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2).

Axiom Space’s Director of human spaceflight Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, will lead the privately funded mission. Aviator John Shoffner of Knoxville, Tennessee, will serve as pilot. Two mission specialists will be announced at a later date.

“Ax-2 is another critical step along the journey to Axiom Station, a commercial space station in low-Earth orbit, and demonstrates that a private company can operate human missions together with NASA to carry on the legacy and achievements of the ISS,” said Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space. “Axiom Space’s private astronaut missions help grow the space economy, expand access to space which benefits all of humanity and provides our team with the ideal training needed to build and operate a commercial space station.”

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Ax-2 crew aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once docked, the Axiom Space astronauts plan to spend 10 days aboard the orbiting laboratory implementing a full mission comprised of science, outreach, and commercial activities. The mission is targeted for launch in the spring of 2023.

Whitson will become the first female commander of a private space mission, adding to her prior accomplishments, including as NASA’s chief astronaut and as the first female commander of the ISS. In addition, she will add to her standing record for the longest cumulative time in space of any astronaut in the history of the U.S. space program.

“I am honored and excited to lead the Ax-2 crew and mission,” Whitson said. “The space station is a vital platform for all types of research. We at Axiom Space are committed to working with NASA to open the door for private citizens to contribute to and advance the groundbreaking research aboard the station, forging the path for us to operate, live and work aboard Axiom Station.”

Shoffner, aviator and businessman, and life-long space enthusiast, has always had an interest in space, the stars, and aviation. He formed a young astronauts club with his friends as a child while following the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions and is a powerful advocate for science, technology engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education. He has continued to pursue flying, becoming a pilot at the age of 17 and has since amassed more than 8,500 flight hours, holding ratings for multiple aircraft types. He is a competitive athlete in a variety of sports and founded his own motorsports team, J2-Racing.

Axiom Space is the commercial space industry’s only full-service orbital mission provider conducting end-to-end crewed missions for private astronauts.

The first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), launched April 8, 2022, with four private astronauts who spent 17 days in orbit working on 26 science payloads aboard the station and conducting more than 30 STEAM educational and public outreach engagements. The crew splashed down off the coast of Florida on April 25, 2022, to conclude the historic mission.

Private astronaut missions to the ISS are a precursor to Axiom Station, the world’s first private space station, part of NASA’s efforts to develop a thriving low-Earth orbit ecosystem and commercial marketplace.

Source: Axiom Space

Kris Christiaens's Avatar

Kris Christiaens

This article was published by FutureSpaceFlight founder and chief editor Kris Christiaens. Kris Christiaens has been passionate and fascinated by spaceflight and space exploration all his life and has written hundreds of articles on space projects, the commercial space industry and space missions over the past 20 years for magazines, books and websites. In late 2021, he founded the website FutureSpaceFlight with the goal of promoting new space companies and commercial space projects and compiling news of these start-ups and companies on one website.