Alumni Ventures Portfolio Company Axiom Space Launches First-Ever All-Private Crew
Houston-based commercial space infrastructure company Axiom Space, an Alumni Ventures (AV) portfolio company, became the first organization to deliver an all-private crew of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for a 10-day mission, as per a Business Wire report.
Photo Insert: Commander Michael López-Alegría: A veteran of the United States Space Shuttle program; Pilot Larry Connor: An experienced aerobatic pilot, entrepreneur, and philanthropist; Mission Specialist Mark Pathy: Entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist; and Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe: An entrepreneur and a former fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force
The mission is part of Axiom’s efforts to build a replacement for the ISS with NASA contracts to build four new ISS modules with the first launching in 2024, which will offer more advanced components to aid in commercializing low-Earth orbit. In March, the company was named to Time Magazine’s Most Influential Companies of 2022 for its spacefaring innovations.
The astronauts were shuttled into space aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule powered by a Falcon 9 rocket. The spacecraft launched from the Kennedy Space Center at 11:17 a.m. on April 8th, flying into low-Earth orbit and ultimately docking with the ISS at 11:17 am on April 9th. SpaceX flew the mission on behalf of Axiom Space.
The mission’s crew is composed of four private astronauts, making Ax-1 the first mission to safely deliver an entirely private crew to the ISS.
AV’s Bascom Ventures, Purple Arch Ventures, Westwood Ventures, Deep Tech Fund, and Total Access Fund first deployed capital in Axiom Space’s $130 million Series B round in 2020 alongside C5 Capital, Declaration Partners (the investment firm backed by David M. Rubenstein), Moelis Dynasty Investments, Hemisphere Ventures, Starbridge Venture Capital and others. AV’s investing team was impressed by Axiom’s technical innovations, highly experienced space flight team, and strong conviction from investors.
The Ax-1 crew members include Commander Michael López-Alegría: A veteran of the United States Space Shuttle program; Pilot Larry Connor: An experienced aerobatic pilot, entrepreneur, and philanthropist; Mission Specialist Mark Pathy: Entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist; and Mission Specialist Eytan Stibbe: An entrepreneur and a former fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force.
Each crew member has undergone at least 1,000 hours of extensive training in preparation for the mission. Aboard the ISS, the crew members will perform 25 different experiments over 100 hours of research during the 10-day mission.
The experiments — conducted in collaboration with both public and private organizations — include an automated space structure construction prototype, cellular biology tests focusing on the detection of cancer and pre-cancerous masses, air purification prototypes testing new types of air filters, and others.
The crew has also been entrusted to deliver items of historical significance to the station, including a piece of cloth from the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft and possessions of pioneering American astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Axiom’s director of In-space Manufacturing and Research, Christian Maender, underscored the mission’s significance: “As the first step on a path to building a diverse, thriving economy in low-Earth orbit, Axiom has partnered with leaders in academia and industry to bring new users and new investigations in research to the space station.”
The Ax-1 mission represents a crucial step forward for Axiom Space toward its ultimate goal of building the Axiom Station, slated to be the first private space station in Earth’s orbit. In-flight data will be collected and used to further study the impact of microgravity on human physiology.