American private space habitat company Axiom Space's first-ever private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is now slated for launch on April 8.
First scheduled to launch on February 21, the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) - the world's first all-private astronaut mission to ISS - has faced many delays. Now, the liftoff is scheduled for April 8 at 11.17 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the company said in a statement.
The 4-member multinational crew will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and will travel to and from the space station in a SpaceX-built Dragon spacecraft.
The Ax-1 crew members are Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria of Spain and the US, Pilot Larry Connor of the US, and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe of Israel and Mark Pathy of Canada.
During their 10-day mission, the crew will spend eight days on the ISS conducting scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities.
"Ax-1 is the first of several proposed Axiom missions to the orbiting laboratory and an important step toward Axiom's goal of constructing a private space station, Axiom Station, in low-Earth orbit that can serve as a global academic and commercial hub," Axiom said.
The research activity also includes a first-of-its-kind brain mapping activity on the ISS.
The experiment will be conducted using an EEG-enabled 'headset' developed by an Israeli startup brain.space.
The headset and all related hardware are planned to be soft-stowed and launched with the AX-1 ascent vehicle - a SpaceX Dragon rocket.
"During its operation on the ISS, the headset will record and analyse neurological activity of crewmembers in order to determine whether results obtained in microgravity are different from those achieved on the ground," brain.space stated on its website.
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The experiment will also return to Earth with the Ax-1 crew.
The "information can be vital in assessing day-to-day plastic changes in the brain and predicting how the brain will adapt to long-term space travel", the company said.
The experiment is being conducted as there is "currently no high-quality longitudinal data regarding the neural changes in prolonged space missions", while data is being collected for various physiological measurements, such as heart rate, galvanic skin resistance, and muscle mass.
Axiom, founded in 2016 by Mike Suffredini, the former ISS programme manager at NASA, has the ultimate goal of building private space stations that various customers can visit to do research.