The Axiom-2 mission heads to the International Space Station courtesy of SpaceX

The Axiom-2 mission is heading to the International Space System after a launch earlier this evening, courtesy of SpaceX.

As it launched at 5:37 PM ET, the SpaceX Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon Freedom lifted off from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center. This is the 2nd mission for Crew Dragon Freedom, previously supporting the Crew-4 launch in April 2022.

Axiom-2 consists of 4 astronauts, Commander Peggy Whitson, a retired NASA Astronaut and now Director of Human Space Flight for Axiom Space, has spent 665 days in space, including numerous spacewalks while living aboard the International Space Station. The designated pilot for this mission is John Shofner, an American race car driver and pilot, who paid for his seat.

There are two Mission Specialists flying as well. First is Rayyanah Barnawi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical research and is the first Saudi female Astronaut. Flying alongside her is Ali AlQarni, who also holds a bachelor’s in aeronautical sciences and is a Captain in Royal Saudi Air Force. The Saudi Space Commission paid for both seats.

B1080 flying through hazy conditions to successfully send AX-2 to the ISS (Richard Angle)

It is estimated that the cost for each seat is roughly $55 million, this includes the ride to space, food, and using the facilities aboard the International Space Station.

The 4 crew members will spend 8 days aboard the orbiting outpost conducting numerous experiments and media outreach. Originally the mission was to be ten days, but due to the scheduling of supply missions to the International Space Station, the mission was shortened to 8 days. The crew is expected to arrive at the International Space Station roughly 16 hours after launch from Kennedy Space Center, where they will be greeted by the 7 current astronauts and cosmonauts living aboard the ISS.

This launch also was the first time a Falcon 9 performed a Return to Launch Site (RTLS) for a Crewed mission. Thanks to their numerous Starlink launches, SpaceX has been able to show the Falcon 9 has the capabilities to complete the RTLS safely, which will also help with a quicker turnaround time for the boosters used on Crew and Resupply missions to the ISS.

The first stage that completed this flight is a rookie amongst the Falcon 9 fleet, B1080, completing its first flight. It may have showed a few nerves at first, with a small leak in its attitude control system that is used during the landing sequence of its flight. However, the leak proved to not be an issue, as B1080 performed a perfect landing at LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Following their stay aboard the ISS, the Crew disembark and make a fiery plunge through the atmosphere with a parachute-assisted landing off of the Florida coast.

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email @, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

Richard Angle: Launch journalist, specializing in launch photography. Based on the Space Coast, a short drive from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pads.
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