Axiom, MBRSC Space Center sign agreement to send UAE astronaut to ISS
The exciting new era of commercial human spaceflight ushered in over the past three weeks by the successful Axiom-1 private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) entered a new phase yesterday with the signing of an agreement between Axiom Space and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to fly a UAE professional crew member to the ISS on NASA's SpaceX Crew 6, expected to occur in 2023.
Above: The agreement between MBRSC and Axiom Space was signed at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington D.C. on April 27 , and His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Chairman, MBRSC, and H.E. Yousuf Hamad AlShaibani, Deputy Chairman, MBRSC, along with astronauts Nora AlMatrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla all attended the signing ceremony. The agreement was signed in the Embassy of the United States by both parties: H.E Salem Al-Marri, Director General of the Centre, on behalf of the Centre, and Michael Suffredini, President and CEO of Axiom Space. (Axiom Space)
"It is our great pleasure to sign the agreement with the United Arab Emirates' Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, marking the first time a commercial space company has made such a mission possible," said Michael Suffredini, President and CEO of Axiom Space. "Axiom Space is proud to provide MBRSC with a fight opportunity for a UAE astronaut, enabling its first long-term mission to the ISS."
While UAE has previously flown an astronaut to the ISS onboard the Soyuz MS15 spacecraft, this will be the first non-ISS partner professional astronaut flight facilitated by a U.S. commercial space company. The mission is expected to last approximately six months, marking the first long-duration flight of an astronaut from an Arab nation. In yet another first, the UAE crew member will serve as a member of two Expedition crews onboard the space station across the roughly six-month interval.
The flight opportunity provided by Axiom has its origins in a no-funds contract signed between NASA and Axiom to fly a NASA astronaut onboard a Soyuz seat, previously purchased by Axiom, in order to ensure continuous U.S. presence onboard the ISS. In exchange, NASA provided Axiom the right to use a seat owned by NASA onboard a commercial U.S. spacecraft traveling to the ISS in the future. Since the seats were deemed of equal value, there will be no future exchange of funds between NASA and Axiom for the flight opportunity. Axiom's agreement with MBRSC is between the company and the UAE space agency.
The agreement was signed at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, D.C. on April 27 by Salem Humaid AlMarri, Director-General of MBRSC and Michael Suffredini, and announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.