Axiom Space for Saudi astronaut flights

PARIS — Axiom Space will send two astronauts from Saudi Arabia, one of whom is a woman, into space next year, the company and the government of Saudi Arabia announced on September 22.

Saudi Arabia’s Space Commission says it has launched the country’s first astronaut program, which will send a man and a woman into space next year. The announcement revealed few details about recruitment and selection, and did not say how the astronauts will fly into space. The commission did not immediately respond to emailed questions about the announcement.

Shortly after the Saudi announcement, Axiom Space announced that it was working with the Saudi Space Commission on a “future flight option” for these astronauts no earlier than 2023. The company does not disclose the terms of the agreement,

This flight could happen immediately after the Ax-2 mission to the International Space Station in the second quarter of 2023. Axiom Space has not yet announced who will occupy two of the four seats on this flight. Reuters first reported the agreement between the Saudi Space Commission and Axiom Space.

“This partnership underscores Axiom Space’s deep commitment to expanding the capabilities of human spaceflight to a greater share of the international community, and to increasing science and technology development on Earth and in orbit,” said Michael Suffredini, CEO of Axiom Space. statement

The agreement with Saudi Arabia was one of several countries that Axiom announced during the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). On September 19, Axiom announced an agreement with the Turkish Space Agency to fly a Turkish astronaut on a future Axiom mission. Neither Axiom nor the Turkish government has announced a date for the flight.

“This mission is part of Turkey’s ambitious 10-year space roadmap, which includes missions to Earth orbit and the Moon, as well as the development of international viable satellite systems.” Serdar Huseyn Yildirim, president of the Turkish Space Agency, said in a statement.

Axiom also announced on Sept. 21 that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Space Agency to explore future space collaboration opportunities that could include flying Canadian astronauts on Axiom missions. While Canada is a partner of the ISS, as the smallest partner it gets to send astronauts to the station only once every few years, less than Europe and Japan.

The axiom announced earlier agreement with the United Arab Emirates to send an astronaut on a long flight to the ISSthe Crew-6 mission will launch in 2023. This flight uses a seat that Axiom purchased from NASA in exchange for a Soyuz seat that the company purchased directly from Roscosmos.

Axiom is also in talks with Hungary about flying an astronaut to the ISS. The company has agreements with Italy and New Zealand for research opportunities that do not necessarily involve flying astronauts from those countries.

Industry sources say the agreements are part of an effort to demonstrate demand from so-called “sovereign customers” or other countries, rather than from private astronauts. The Ax-1 mission flew with three private astronauts, although they emphasized that they were conducting research during the two-week mission to the station in April.

However, working with national space agencies also carries risks. At the IAC, the government of Saudi Arabia made an aggressive bid to host the conference in Riyadh in 2025. The bid appeared to be the frontrunner, but was met with a backlash from delegates concerned about the country’s human rights record. The International Astronautical Federation announced on September 22 that the 2025 event will be held in Sydney, Australia. Axiom Space for Saudi astronaut flights

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