Science & Technology

Saudi Arabia paves way to launch of astronauts aboard SpaceX

Saudi Arabia plans to send two astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a space capsule produced by the “SpaceX” company, owned by billionaire Elon Musk.


With this, Saudi Arabia becomes the latest Gulf state to strengthen ties with private US space companies.


Reuters news agency reported, quoting three informed sources, who spoke without revealing their identity, as saying that the deal was signed privately earlier this year with the company “Axiom Space” in Houston.


Houston-based Axiom Space organizes and operates special missions to space aboard an American spacecraft for researchers and tourists.


Under the agreement, two Saudi astronauts will ride a “SpaceX Crew Dragon” capsule to the space station on a nearly week-long trip early next year, and they will be the first to go from their country to space on a private spacecraft.


The deal is the latest in a series that puts companies like Axiom in a unique role of diplomacy that has long been dominated by government agencies such as NASA.


The space station is a laboratory the size of a football field 250 miles (400 km) above Earth and has housed multinational astronauts for more than 20 years.


The sources said that the two Saudi astronauts will join two previously announced Americans, retired American astronaut Peggy Whitson and race car driver and investor John Schofner.


Mission AX2 will be the second spaceflight organized by Axiom.

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