The second-ever private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has a tentative launch date once again.
NASA, SpaceX and Houston-based company Axiom Space had been targeting May 8 for the launch of Ax-2, which will send four people to the ISS for a roughly 10-day stay.
On Wednesday (May 3), NASA announced that Ax-2 would not lift off in early May after all but did not provide a new target launch date. Just two days later, however, we got one.
“Launch Update: @NASA, @Axiom_Space & @SpaceX are targeting no earlier than 5:37 p.m. EDT Sunday, May 21, for launch of Axiom Mission 2 to the @Space_Station,” NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate tweeted on Friday afternoon (opens in new tab).
Related: Photos of the Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station
Ax-2 will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The four crewmates will travel to and from the International Space Station in a SpaceX Dragon capsule named Freedom.
This will be the second space trip for Freedom; it also flew SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission to and from the orbiting lab for NASA in 2022.
The Ax-2 crewmates are Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni. Whitson, a record-setting former NASA astronaut who now flies for Axiom, will command the mission.
Shoffner is an investor and paying customer. Barnawi and AlQarni are members of the first Saudi Arabian astronaut class. They will become the first people from the kingdom to visit the ISS, and Barnawi will be the first Saudi woman to reach the final frontier.
As its name suggests, Ax-2 will be the second mission organized and operated by Axiom Space. The first, Ax-1, sent four private astronauts to the ISS for more than two weeks in April 2022, also using SpaceX hardware.
Axiom is working on other, more ambitious projects as well. The company plans to launch several modules to the ISS in the coming years. This complex will then separate and become a free-flying private space station in Earth orbit.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).