Axiom Space is selling tickets on a SpaceX capsule for a $55 million, 10-day stay on the orbiting outpost that would be the first to involve no governmental space agencies.
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The trip to the space station was the first from American soil since 2011 when the...The trip to the space station was the first from American soil since 2011 when the space shuttles were retired.
Why SpaceX's launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk's rocket company and the US as a whole
SpaceX is set to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time...SpaceX is set to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time on Wednesday afternoon. It will be the first time an American-made spacecraft has launched humans from US soil in nearly a decade. If successful, the mission would resurrect the US's human spaceflight capabilities and open a new era of commercial space exploration. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The last time the United States launched humans into space from American soil was in 2011, when the last Space Shuttle made its final voyage into orbit. Since then, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). That has become increasingly expensive and limited US access to the station. That could all change at 4:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday. If weather, hardware, and other factors cooperate, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship, built with NASA funds, will launch astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley towards the ISS in a mission called Demo-2. A successful flight would resurrect the US's ability to launch people into space. It would also mark SpaceX's first mission with passengers in the company's 18-year history. "This is the culmination of a dream," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told "CBS This Morning" just hours ahead of the scheduled launch. "This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal. If you'd asked me when starting SpaceX if this would happen, I'd be like '1% chance, 0.1% chance.'" A Demo-2 success would also mark the first crewed commercial spaceflight ever, opening an entirely new era of space exploration. Here's how you can watch the launch live. 'American astronauts on American rockets from American soil' Russia has used its spaceflight monopoly to charge more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost has risen from about $21 million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than $90 million per seat on a planned flight for October. SpaceX's Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost $55 million per seat, according to NASA's inspector general. That's why NASA began funding SpaceX and its competitor, Boeing, to develop human-ready spacecraft in 2010. The effort, called the Commercial Crew Program, is three years past its original deadline. Having a spacecraft and launch system in the US will give NASA better access to the space station. While Soyuz can only carry three people at a time, the Crew Dragon can seat seven. Once NASA can send more astronauts at a lower cost, it will also be able to use the space station's microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more. "The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical," Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said during a televised briefing on May 1. "We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world." He added: "We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil." Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars SpaceX has big plans. Musk dreams of flying people around the moon and later landing on the lunar surface, then moving on to establish Martian cities and put a million settlers on the red planet. At the forefront of commercial spaceflight, SpaceX also plans to fly space tourists. In February, the company announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX. Even Tom Cruise intends to fly aboard Crew Dragon so he can film a new action movie on the space station. NASA shares some of Musk's ambitions (sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars) but there are a lot of steps along the way. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon is the first big milestone. But the mission won't be considered a success until it returns Hurley and Behnken to Earth. "We're going to stay hungry until Bob and Doug come home," Kathy Lueders, who manages the Commercial Crew Program for NASA, said in a briefing on Friday. "Our teams are scouring and thinking of every single risk that's out there, and we've worked our butt off to buy down the ones we know of, and we'll continue to look — and continue to buy them down — until we bring them home."SEE ALSO: Meet Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, 2 'badass' astronauts, engineers, and dads who are poised to make history for SpaceX, NASA and the world DON'T MISS: SpaceX is set to launch astronauts on Wednesday. Here's how Elon Musk's company became NASA's best shot at resurrecting American spaceflight. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA spacesuits are so expensive
Axiom Space inks deal with SpaceX to take private astronauts into space — and possibly corner the private space-mission market
Axiom Space, a startup co-founded by a former NASA space station program manager, has inked a...Axiom Space, a startup co-founded by a former NASA space station program manager, has inked a deal to fly all-private missions to orbit with SpaceX rockets and ships. Axiom told Business Insider that "part of the crew is locked in" for the first mission, scheduled to launch in 2021, but declined to name those private astronauts. NASA says it can accommodate two private missions to the International Space Station (ISS) per year, and Axiom plans to launch that many per year. The startup eventually hopes to fly its own modules to the ISS in a few years, then later reconfigure them into a private space station. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Axiom Space, a startup co-founded by a former NASA manager, has inked a deal with SpaceX to launch the first all-private crewed missions into orbit. The venture capital-backed company announced the deal on Thursday. The news, broken in Forbes by Jonathan O'Callaghan, follows a NASA announcement in June that the agency is opening up its modules on the International Space Station (ISS) to private crew members for $35,000 a night. Private astronauts have flown to the ISS for years, but always as part of a larger professional crew and always on board Russia's Soyuz spaceship. Axiom, led by CEO and co-founder Mike Suffredini, who managed NASA's space station program for a decade before retiring from the agency, says it aims to launch the first all-private ISS mission "as soon as the second half of 2021." "This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space," Suffredini said in a statement. That first mission will fly a privately trained commander and three other private astronauts aboard SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship. Crew Dragon has flown to orbit and back and proved its escape system works. The spaceship has yet to fly any people, but that should change this spring with SpaceX's Demo-2 test mission for NASA, which will rocket veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into orbit. When asked about its arrangement with SpaceX or how much a ticket aboard Crew Dragon might cost, a spokesperson for Axiom told Business Insider in an email that "it is our policy not to discuss pricing or contract details." However, NASA's Office of Inspector General estimated in a November 2019 report that the agency would pay roughly $55 million per astronaut (which is about $35 million cheaper than a spot aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spaceship). The spokesperson also declined to name the mission commander or any space tourist on the flight, but said "part of the crew is locked in," indicating one or more the four crew members have yet to finalize a contract to fly. "[W]e have a pipeline of prospects with whom we are always in various stages of discussion about seats on several of our planned flights," the spokesperson said. The first mission is slated to dock with the ISS for more than a week to allow the private crew to experience "microgravity and views of Earth that can only be fully appreciated in the large, venerable station," the announcement said. Around 2024, though, Axiom hopes to launch its own private modules to attach to and expand the ISS — then reconfigure them into a private space station once NASA decides to de-orbit its decades-old, football-field-sized facility. NASA, when asked about the fresh announcement, gave Business Insider the following statement: "Axiom's partnership with SpaceX directly supports NASA's broad strategy to facilitate the commercialization of low-Earth orbit by United States entities. NASA's goal is to achieve a robust economy in low-Earth orbit from which NASA can purchase services as one of many customers. A robust commercial space economy ensures national interests for research and development in low-Earth orbit are fulfilled while allowing NASA to focus government resources on deep space exploration through the Artemis program and land the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon in 2024." Axiom is on its way to cornering the private space-mission market NASA told Business Insider that, as part of its plans to increasingly commercialize low-Earth orbit and the ISS itself, the agency "intends to accommodate up to two short-duration private astronaut mission opportunities" per year. "Interested entities need to make an agreement with NASA for those missions," NASA said. "At this point, all private astronaut mission opportunities are available to outside entities." However, Axiom hopes to launch two all-private missions per year to the ISS. Should NASA sign off on such an arrangement, Axiom may be the premier private-mission provider for some time. Such a decision may affect the plans of competitors such as Bigelow Aerospace, which is also building private space station modules designed to attach to the ISS or serve as independent research laboratories (and hotels) in orbit. Although Axiom can approve whomever it wants to fly aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon, NASA says it and its space station partners "will have final approval for all crew traveling to the ISS." "Private astronauts will have to meet FAA regulatory requirements, which include liability waivers, insurance, and indemnification during launch and reentry activities," NASA said. Those who are approved for flight will train at Axiom and NASA facilities in Houston, Texas, and, for Crew Dragon-specific training, at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. At NASA facilities, private astronauts will be trained by KBR, "a leading solutions provider to the civil, military and commercial space industry" that recently signed a Space Act Agreement with the agency and has helped train professional astronauts for decades. "The commander will be trained to the same level as a NASA astronaut," Axiom said, and with a company-designed curriculum crafted in part by "two former NASA astronauts and a long-time Mission Control flight director." Axiom views itself as distinct compared to Space Adventures, which recently acquired seats aboard Crew Dragon missions and has flown space tourists for decades. "Space Adventures is a broker. Axiom is not. Axiom is a full-service mission provider that manages its own missions," the spokesperson said. "Additionally, our flights will go to ISS and allow customers to experience life aboard ISS and have, essentially, better views and room to move around — as opposed to merely floating in a capsule in orbit for a few days." Axiom says it hopes to take advantage of its fuller access to reach a customer base made up of governments "that want to get into human spaceflight" or expand their existing presence on the ISS. The company is also, of course, targeting (presumably very wealthy) private individuals. Practically, the startup says it hopes to help agencies and companies — likely including NASA and SpaceX — test Mars-bound systems. Axiom also wants to boost commercial activity in space and profit from "in-space research, microgravity manufacturing, or media and brand partnerships."SEE ALSO: A 35-year-old NASA astronaut, M.D., and Navy SEAL reveals his secrets of success — and his greatest mistake DON'T MISS: SpaceX and Amazon are making huge gambles on internet satellites that just might pay off — and transform where people live and work Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are in an epic feud that's lasted years