SpaceX launching Saudi astronauts on private flight to space station
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX’s next private flight to the International Space Station awaited takeoff Sunday, weather and rocket permitting.
The passengers include Saudi Arabia’s first astronauts in decades, as well as a Tennessee businessman who started his own sports car racing team. They’ll be led by a retired NASA astronaut who now works for the company that arranged the 10-day trip.
It’s the second charter flight organized by Houston-based Axiom Space. The company would not say how much the latest tickets cost; it previously cited per-seat prices of $55 million.
With its Falcon rocket already on the pad, SpaceX targeted a liftoff late Sunday afternoon from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It’s the same spot where Saudi Arabia’s first astronaut, a prince, soared 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: John Shoffner, the racecar buff; and Peggy Whitson, who holds the U.S. record for most accumulated time in space at 665 days.
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