Welcome home, Ax-2 crew: Axiom Space concludes second private mission to ISS

Axiom Space‘s second private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) concluded late Tuesday with a four-person crew splashing down off the west coast of Florida around 11 PM EST.

The splashdown marks another win for Axiom, the private company that operated the mission, and SpaceX, which launched and returned the crew inside a Dragon crew capsule. This was Axiom’s second private human spaceflight mission to the ISS and SpaceX’s tenth time launching humans to the orbital lab and back.

“SpaceX, we would like to tell you, that was a phenomenal ride,” mission commander Peggy Whitson said shortly after splashdown. “We really enjoyed all of it.”

SpaceX Axiom Space Ax-2 splashdown

Image Credits: SpaceX

The Ax-2 crew on the 10-day mission included Whitson, former NASA astronaut and Axiom’s director of human spaceflight; pilot John Shoffner; and Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, both astronauts from Saudi Arabia. Alqarni and Barnawi are the first Saudi astronauts to visit the ISS. Whitson has now spent a total of 674 days in space — a record for any other American or woman.

While aboard the ISS, the Ax-2 crew conducted over 20 experiments and brought back more than 300 pounds of return material and data.

Axiom Space’s first mission, Ax-1, took place in April 2022 and lasted for a total of 17 days. The company wants to be the go-to mission provider for governments, private enterprises and even individuals looking to spend time on the orbital lab. This most recent crew reflects Axiom’s business plan perfectly: an ultra-experienced former NASA astronaut at the helm, along with a private wealthy individual who paid for his ticket and two government customers.

Axiom doesn’t plan on just providing mission support: The company’s longer-term goal is to operate its own commercial space station. Axiom’s plan is to launch two pressurized modules and attach them to the ISS sometime around 2025; those modules would eventually detach and become a free-floating Axiom Station once the ISS is decommissioned in 2030.

Rewatch the splashdown in the video below.