21 May 2023

SpaceX launching Saudi astronauts on private flight to space station

21 May 2023

SpaceX’s next private flight to the International Space Station awaited take-off on Sunday, weather and rocket permitting.

The passengers include Saudi Arabia’s first astronauts in decades and a US businessman who started his own sports car racing team.

They will be led by a retired Nasa astronaut who now works for the company which arranged the 10-day trip.

It is the second charter flight organised by Houston-based Axiom Space.

The company would not say how much the latest tickets cost but previously cited per-seat prices of 55 million dollars (£44 million).

With its Falcon rocket already on the pad, SpaceX targeted a lift-off late Sunday from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre, the same spot where Saudi Arabia’s first astronaut, a prince, soared from in 1985.

Representing the Saudi Arabian government this time are Rayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher set to become the kingdom’s first woman in space, and royal Saudi air force fighter pilot Ali al-Qarni.

Rounding out the crew is John Shoffner, the racecar buff, and Peggy Whitson, who holds the US record for most accumulated time in space at 665 days.

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