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SpaceX : Saudi Arabia purchases two SpaceX astronaut seats from Axiom, according to sources.

In accordance with the arrangement, two Saudi astronauts will go to the space station in early 2019 on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft for a stay of around a week. The Saudis would be the first citizens of their nation to travel to space in a personal spacecraft.

The arrangement was negotiated secretly early this year with Houston’s Axiom Space, which organises and handles private journeys to space aboard American spacecraft for researchers and tourists, according to the sources, who requested anonymity to discuss the mission’s crew before it was formally announced.

Axiom was silent at the time. The Saudi Space Commission, Riyadh’s 2018-founded space body, did not immediately have any spokespersons available for comment.

SpaceX

As the National Aeronautics and SpaceX Administration, the U.S. space agency now heavily focused on returning humans to the moon, looks to commercialise the United States’ decades-old human spaceflight presence in low-Earth orbit, private U.S. companies have increasingly played a key role in sending astronauts to the spaceX station.

The agreement would be the most recent to place businesses like Axiom in a distinctive diplomatic position formerly held primarily by governmental organizations like NASA. A football field-sized laboratory 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, the space station has hosted multinational astronaut crews for more than 20 years.

According to the reports, the Saudi astronauts will join the two Americans who had already been named, Peggy Whitson, a retired NASA astronaut, and John Shoffner, a racing car driver and investor. The mission, known as Ax-2, will mark Axiom’s second excursion into orbit.

A NASA-chaired panel comprising the space station’s participating stakeholders and nations, including Russia, Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency, has not yet given its approval to the commercial astronauts aboard Ax-2, a U.S. official said. The mission is likely to be approved, the person continued.

Deals with foreign governments are viewed by Axiom and other space corporations as essential to maintaining a business focused on sending humans into space. A source of pride and inspiration for aspirational space powers like Saudi Arabia, people-in-space missions are a luxury for wealthy thrill-seekers.

In April, Axiom flew its first private mission to the space station. A four-person crew, including a Canadian investor and an Israeli businessman, travelled to the station in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

In addition, Turkey and Axiom agreed to work together in order to launch the country’s first two astronauts into space in the latter half of 2023. According to an individual familiar with the flight, that will probably be for mission Ax-3.

Astronaut flight business is crucial experience for Axiom’s wider goals, which include constructing its own private space station by the middle of the decade. When the current international laboratory is shut down around 2030, it intends to first link modules to the International Space Station before separating into a wholly private construction.

Axiom’s Saudi agreement’s worth was unclear. Each Crew Dragon seat on the Axiom’s initial mission cost $55 million.

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