Live coverage: Four private astronauts launch to International Space Station – Spaceflight Now – Spaceflight Now

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Axiom’s Ax-1 mission. The Ax-1 mission will carry Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, Eytan Stibbe, and Mark Pathy to the International Space Station. Follow us on Twitter.

Four private citizens rode into orbit Friday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, taking aim on the International Space Station on the first all-commercial mission to visit the research complex. Liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida occurred at 11:17 a.m. EDT (1517 GMT).
Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut, commands the four-man crew. He was joined for the launch into space by pilot Larry Connor and mission specialists Eytan Stibbe and Mark Pathy.
The mission is managed by Axiom Space, a Houston-based company which contracted with SpaceX for the Falcon 9 launch and the Crew Dragon flight to the space station. Axiom also has an agreement with NASA, which is providing accommodations for the four-man crew at the station.
The arrangement is the first of its kind. Previous visits by private astronauts, or “space tourists,” to the space station occurred on government-led missions on Russian Soyuz spaceships.
Axiom’s first mission, named Ax-1, is an all-private affair. López-Alegría is an Axiom employee, and his three crewmates are paying their way to the space station as Axiom customers.
Connor, head of a real estate investment firm and an experienced private pilot, is co-pilot of the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft. Pathy is an investor and philanthropist from Canada, and Stibbe is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and a former F-16 fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force.
The crew trained for the mission in Houston and at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
The Ax-1 mission will last at least 10 days, with at least eight days on the space station, where López-Alegría, Connor, Pathy, and Stibbe will perform experiments, participate in educational and public relations outreach activities, and enjoy their time in orbit.
There was an 90% chance that weather conditions would be favorable for launch Friday, according to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. There was a moderate risk that upper level winds could exceed the Falcon 9’s safety criteria, and a moderate risk of unfavorable downrange weather for landing of the Falcon 9’s first stage or a splashdown of the Dragon capsule in the Atlantic Ocean in the event of an in-flight emergency.
But the weather conditions were “green” for launch Friday. The Falcon 9 rocket headed northeast after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center to line up with the space station’s ground track.
The rocket’s first stage landed on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” parked in the Atlantic Ocean about 340 miles (545 kilometers) downrange from the launch pad. The reusable booster, designated B1062, flew on its fifth mission.
Read our mission preview story for details on the Ax-1 launch.
ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1062.5)
PAYLOAD: Crew Dragon Endeavour on the Ax-1 mission
LAUNCH SITE: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
LAUNCH DATE: April 8, 2022
LAUNCH TIME: 11:17:12 a.m. EDT (1517:12 GMT)
LAUNCH WINDOW: Instantaneous
WEATHER FORECAST: 90% probability of acceptable weather
BOOSTER RECOVERY: “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone ship
TARGET ORBIT: Approximately 130 miles by 143 miles (210 by 230 kilometers); Inclination of 51.6 degrees to the equator
DOCKING AT ISS: 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 GMT) on Saturday, April 9
LANDING DATE: April 19, 2022
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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.
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