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Second All-Private Astronaut Mission to the International Space Station Also Brings Compelling Science and Technology Demonstrations



KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., May 11, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The second launch of an all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by Axiom Space builds on the new era of privatized utilization of the orbiting laboratory.

Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) will send four private astronauts to the space station. It will also carry more than 20 payloads sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory that will be performed during the space expedition onboard the orbiting outpost. These investigations span diverse disciplines, from life sciences to biomanufacturing, materials science, technology demonstrations, and education projects. This research and technology development will bring value to humanity while enabling the development of a robust and sustainable market in low Earth orbit.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Ax-2 crew onboard a Dragon spacecraft no earlier than 5:37 p.m. EDT on May 21, 2023, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

The Ax-2 astronauts flying on this mission include Commander and former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and Pilot John Shoffner, both of the United States. They are joined by mission specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, who represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Alqarni and Barnawi are the first two representatives from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia slated to launch on a mission to the space station.

Axiom Space is an ISS National Lab Commercial Service Provider, and through this partnership, the company can offer additional access to low Earth orbit for researchers and private astronauts alike.

Below highlights some of the investigations launching on the Ax-2 mission:

A project from the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center will study the effects of microgravity on the production of stem cells and stem cell-derived products. The research team will examine how the space-based environment affects the steps currently used in ground-based manufacturing to reprogram skin cells (fibroblasts) into stem cells that can generate into a variety of tissue types (e.g., heart, brain, and blood). Results could help advance regenerative medicine applications on Earth.

Two projects are from the Sanford Stem Cell Institute at the University of California San Diego. The first builds on a project flown on Ax-1 (Modeling Tumor Organoids) by expanding the research team’s tumor organoid model to include triple-negative breast cancer cells. The team will study immune dysfunction and drug challenge to further develop stem cell models that could aid in the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer. The second project will analyze blood samples from Ax-2 crew members before, during, and after spaceflight to better understand changes in the activity of DNA- and RNA-editing proteins. These proteins are involved in mutations that may be related to the development of cancer and diseases caused by immune dysfunction.

A collaboration between the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the RegenMed Development Organization will send bioengineered liver and kidney tissue constructs to space to examine microgravity’s effects on the vascularization of thick tissues. If successful, this project could set the foundation for the in-space production of tissue that could improve efficiency of organ transplants on Earth. Additionally, this project serves as a precursor to a future ISS National Lab-sponsored project awarded through NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge.

A project from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will test a wearable system for astronauts designed to simulate some of the aspects of normal gravity. The Gravity Loading Countermeasure Skinsuit is intended to mitigate some of the negative effects of microgravity, such as muscle atrophy, spinal elongation, and sensorimotor changes. The system could be used to supplement astronaut exercise during future missions to the Moon and Mars. It could also be used to further reduce the physiological effects of microgravity on astronauts during missions in low Earth orbit. 

You can read more about these investigations and others launching on Ax-2 through Axiom Space’s science overview and through the ISS National Lab launch page.

To download a high-resolution photo for this release, click here.

About the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory: 
The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the space station are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit

About Axiom Space:
Axiom Space is building history, guided by the vision of a thriving home in space that benefits every human, everywhere. The leading provider of human spaceflight services and developer of human-rated space infrastructure, Axiom Space operates end-to-end missions to the International Space Station today while developing its successor, Axiom Station – a permanent commercial destination in low-Earth orbit that will sustain human growth off the planet and bring untold benefits back home. For more information about Axiom Space, visit

SOURCE International Space Station National Lab

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