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Axiom’s next trip to ISS will carry the first Saudi woman in space

Axiom Space says it is working with the Saudi Space Commission to send two space flyers from the Arab kingdom as early as next year, including the first Saudi woman to go into orbit.

The inclusion of a female astronaut is especially noteworthy for Saudi Arabia – where women were forbidden to drive motor vehicles to 2018, and where the status of women is still a controversial topic.

Houston-based Axiom Space and the Saudi Space Commission today announced their partnership at the International Astronautical Congress in Paris. In a press releaseThe Saudi commission said its participation in Axiom’s Ax-2 mission is part of the nation’s efforts “to conduct scientific experiments and research for the betterment of humanity in priority areas such as health, sustainability and space technology.” It acknowledged that the inclusion of a female astronaut “will be a historic first for the Kingdom.”

Axiom Space performed its first commercial mission to the ISS in April. The Ax-1 mission sent three millionaire investors to the ISS in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for a 17-day orbital journey. Ax-2, tentatively scheduled for the first half of 2023, is expected to follow a similar flight plan.

Two other members of the Ax-2 crew have: already mentioned. Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will lead the mission and race car driver John Shoffner has signed on as a mission pilot. Axiom and NASA announced last month that she signed the order for Ax-2 — and NASA and its space station partners are expected to eventually approve Axiom’s crew selections.

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Axiom Space President and CEO Michael Suffredini (left) meets with Saudi officials Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swahha and Mohammed Saud Al Tamimi to sign documents on space cooperation. (Credit: Saudi Space Commission)

Axiom Space is the first company to benefit from NASA’s commercial spaceflight participant program, which was founded in 2019. Axiom provides logistics for its manned missions, including training, launch and salvage arrangements, with reimbursement to NASA for the space agency’s expenses. Ax-1’s customers would have paid $55 million each for their ride.

Axiom made a number of other announcements at the IAC meeting:

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