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SpaceX launches million-dollar private mission to International Space Station

The multimillion-dollar flight is the second time that private citizens pay for their tickets to space

Space X rocket
Space X rocket | Shutterstock

May 22, 2023 8:26am

Updated: May 22, 2023 8:26am

SpaceX launched three paying customers and an astronaut to outer space on the Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday to stay a week at the International Space Station.

The mission, dubbed AX-2, launched on Sunday afternoon from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The journey, the second all-private mission to reach the space outpost, was put together by Houston-based company Axiom. 

AX-2 is led by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, 63. She previously worked at the Space Station, holding the U.S. record for the most cumulative days logged in space: 665 days. Whitson, now an Axiom employee, will become the first woman to command a private spaceflight. 

Whitson will be leading three paying customers to outer space, including American citizen John Shoffner, founder of the hardware company Dura-Line Corp, and two Saudi Arabian citizens sponsored by their government, Ali AlQarni, a fighter pilot in the Royal Saudi Air Force and stem cell researcher Rayyanah Barnawi. The mission will also be making history by sending the first woman from Saudi Arabia to outer space.

“I am very honored and happy to be representing all the dreams and all the hopes of all the people in Saudi Arabia and all the women back home,” Barnawi said last week. 

The three passengers, traveling in the Crew Dragon capsule, are expected to arrive at the space station on Monday to join the seven astronauts already onboard. They will spend eight days aboard the space station, where they will work on several science projects. 

The multimillion-dollar flight is the second time that private citizens pay for their tickets to space. In April 2022, Axiom launched its first mission, AX-1, with paying customers in partnership with SpaceX.

It is unclear how much the passengers pay for the 10-day mission, however, the company had previously given a price of $55 million per person. 

Axiom plans to scale up private space flights to offer the opportunity for people who are not professional astronauts to experience space. Axiom is also planning to create a privately owned space station to be in use after the International Space Station is retired around 2030.