Axiom Space, Hungary Advance Private Astronaut Mission Plans
Hungary has signed the third in a series of agreements with private astronaut mission provider Axiom Space meant to open the door for the launch of a Hungarian astronaut on a future spaceflight.
The Spaceflight Framework Agreement—signed by Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, and Mike Suffredini, Axiom Space’s CEO—came into effect on Sept. 19, according to an announcement by the Houston-based company a day later.
Axiom Space has flown two private astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS)—each carrying four astronauts—and is preparing for a third for no earlier than January 2024. A fourth mission, for which a crew has not yet been named, is planned for no earlier than August 2024.
The Sept. 20 announcement did not include the name of a Hungarian astronaut, nor a specific mission assignment.
“On July 20, 2022, we celebrated a significant milestone when Axiom Space and Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade inked a memorandum of understanding [MOU] in Washington, D.C.,’’ Suffredini stated as part of the announcement. “That MOU, a continuation of our agreement from December 2021, showcased a mutual vision to propel the ‘Hungarian to Orbit’ program and enhance the impact of the Hungarian space sector. I’m thrilled to say that our journey together continues.”
The Hungarian ministry announced in February 2022 that it had begun a selection process in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) for a mission to the ISS in 2024, according to the Hungarian Research Network.
Axiom’s ISS missions have been gradually opening a door for global astronaut access and research onboard the seven-person ISS, which in November will mark 23 years of continuous human staffing.
The future mission with Hungarian astronaut participation will have a “strong emphasis” on advancing scientific research, promoting space awareness among the country’s populace and solidifying Hungary’s place among the international space community, according to Axiom Space.
Hungary became the 22nd member of ESA’s astronaut corps on Feb. 24, 2015, though it is not represented among ESA’s six-member active astronaut corps, five-nation astronaut candidate class nor its two-member project astronaut corps. Hungary has been invited to sign NASA’s Artemis Accords, which outline a peaceful, cooperative and transparent strategy for future human space exploration and now has 29 signatories, including the U.S.
Axiom’s first private astronaut mission was AX-1, a 17-day voyage to the ISS in April 2022 onboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule. As required, the mission was commanded by a company-employed retired NASA astronaut and included an Israeli and Canadian investor and philanthropist among the crew.
AX-2, a 10-day mission to the ISS in May 2023, included two Saudi Arabian clients. AX-3 will include three clients, representing Italy, Turkey and a Swedish member of ESA’s project astronaut corps.
The company also is under contract to NASA for the development and assembly of the initial elements of a private space station—Axiom Station. The elements are to be docked to the U.S. segment of the ISS beginning in 2026. As the 15-nation ISS nears the end of congressionally authorized operations at the close of this decade, Axiom Station is to separate for commercially managed operations, with NASA among its customers.