Axiom-2 launches four more private astronauts to the ISS

Sunday May 21 at 5:37 pm E.T. from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center

Axiom Space, the Houston based company specializing in human spaceflight engineering, training, operations and program management of programs has launched their second mission this evening, sending four more humans towards their final destination of the International Space Station. After Friday’s dress rehearsal the crew of four has waited patiently for their day to come. Commander Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut, along with Pilot John Shoffner, and two Saudi astronauts, Rayyanah Barnawi, and Ali AlQarni, blasted off with the Crew Dragon Freedom where in roughly sixteen hours they will reach the orbital lab for an eight day stay.

These Axiom-2 astronauts, once aboard the space station will conduct extensive research, investigate novel technologies, and engage with audiences around the world as champions of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. Their work will continue to lay the foundation and establish key capabilities needed to build and operate Axiom’s space station, the world’s first commercial space station.

Severing as Commander during the mission, Peggy Whitson is America’s most experienced astronaut. During her career with NASA she flew on three long duration space flights, and accumulated 665 days in space. That’s more than any other American astronaut, man or woman. She now serves as the first female commander of a private space mission, an accomplishment to add on top of her already being the first female to command the ISS, and first nonmilitary chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office.

Pilot of the mission, John Shoffner has been a pilot since the age of seventeen and has accumulated over 8500 flight hours, and is an airshow veteran for over twenty-five years now. He holds certifications in commercial, instrument, single and multi-engine craft, ratings in both land and sea aircraft/helicopters, along with ratings in ex-military jets, and high-performance radial engine aircraft. His professional career led him to the forefront of the fiber optic telecommunications industry where he holds multiple patents on several materials and methods used for the placement of fiber optic cables. A STEM advocate and life long space enthusiast, Shoffner is achieving his life long dream of reaching space this evening.

Representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and serving as Mission Specialist on the Ax-2 mission, Ali Alqarni is also reaching his dreams of flying to space today. With more than 2,387 flight hours in twelve years he is a knowledgeable fighter pilot in several types of airframes, primarily piloting the F-15S during his tenure in the Royal Saudi Air Force. Alqarni credits a visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center while training with the U.S. Air Force for fueling his interest in space and space flight. He is now an inaugural member of the Saudi National Astronaut Program and will be making history as the second male Saudi astronaut to visit the International Space Station.

Also representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and serving as a Mission Specialist, Rayyanah Barnawi will be making history as the first female Saudi astronaut to go to space. She spent over nine years as a research lab technician for the Stem Cell and Tissue Re-engineering Program at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center located in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. She will be focusing her attention on stem cell and breast cancer research during the Ax-2 mission.