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Israeli Fighter Pilot to Be Part of SpaceX's Private Flight for Axiom Next Year

NASA
  • Former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe is the second member of the all-private crew that SpaceX is scheduled to launch late next year for Axiom Space, the company confirmed to CNBC on Monday.
  • President of Israel Reuven Rivlin made the announcement shortly after SpaceX launched its Crew-1 mission for NASA on Sunday evening.
  • Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who previously worked for NASA and flew to space four times, will be the mission commander for AX-1, with Stibbe set to serve as a mission specialist.
  • Axiom has yet to name the remaining two members of the AX-1 mission.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — Former Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe is the second member of the all-private crew that SpaceX is scheduled to launch late next year for Axiom Space, the company confirmed to CNBC on Monday.

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin made the announcement shortly after SpaceX launched its Crew-1 mission for NASA on Sunday evening.

"Eytan Stibbe will fly with the blue and white flag his uniform, reminding us that the sky is no longer the limit!" Rivlin said in a tweet.

Stibbe is set to become Israel's second astronaut. The nation's first astronaut was Ilan Ramon, a payload specialist on board Space Shuttle Columbia. He and the other six members of the NASA crew were killed on Feb. 1, 2003 when Columbia broke apart during re-entry.

The Axiom AX-1 mission is scheduled to launch in the second half of 2021, which the company unveiled in a deal with SpaceX earlier this year. Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who previously worked for NASA and flew to space four times, will be the AX-1 mission commander, with Stibbe set to serve as a mission specialist.

AX-1 would be the first fully private mission to the International Space Station, with Lopez-Alegria and Stibbe flying with two other yet-to-be-named people.

While NASA announced earlier this year that the agency is working with actor Tom Cruise to make a film on board the ISS, Axiom has not confirmed that Cruise is one of the other two passengers for AX-1.

The first Axiom mission will last 10 days – with two days of travel and eight days on board the space station.

Neither SpaceX nor Axiom has disclosed how much the AX-1 mission will cost. But recent contracts mean that it will likely cost more than $50 million per person, as NASA expects to pay SpaceX about $55 million per astronaut for missions to the ISS, and last year SpaceX had an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to fly individuals to the ISS for $52 million per person.

In addition to the launch costs, a 10-day mission would rack up a $350,000 bill with NASA. Under the agency's cost structure unveiled last year, NASA would get $35,000 a night per person, as compensation for the agency's services a tourist would need while on board the ISS.

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