In a historic first, on April 8th, a crew of four civilians boarded the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As planned, by the following morning, the crew successfully reached the International Space Station (ISS). Sponsoring spaceflight company, Axiom Space, aims to rethink the future of space stations.

During the astronauts’ time at the ISS, they are slated to assist with more than two dozen scientific experiments, in addition to forging a path through which Axiom Space can develop the first commercial space station.

Ax-1 flight crew. Left to right: Mark Pathy, Larry Connor, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Eytan Stibbe. Image courtesy of CNN Business.

Says NASA, the current government-run International Space Station will “de-orbit” in 2030 or so. The use of low-earth orbit will then be available to the private sector.

The low-earth orbit economy and ecosystem are expected to grow in coming years.

SpaceX Falcon 9 mission

The civilian astronauts are due to spend eight days aboard the orbiting laboratory. The experiments conducted will pertain to crew members respective interests and affiliations.

For instance, Ax-1 Mission Pilot, Larry Connor, will conduct research in partnership with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. Previously, Larry Connor has financed research at both institutions.

On behalf of the Mayo Clinic, Larry will collect data related to space travel’s impact on senescent sells (cells that have stopped dividing) and heart health. To support the Cleveland Clinic’s research, he has agreed to undergo pre- and post-mission MRIs. This will allow scientists to better understand the effects of the spaceflight environment on spinal and brain tissue.

Crew member Eytan Stibbe is conducting research on behalf Israel’s Science and Technology Ministry and the Ramon Foundation. His research projects cover an array of disciplines, from technology to food and agriculture.

“The mission will enable Israeli entrepreneurs and researchers to advance innovative ideas and will provide a rare opportunity for them to test their enterprises in a unique study environment…” says the Ramon Foundation.

Stibbe also carried aboard a sculpture created by Tel Aviv University physicists. The sculpture “self-inflates” in zero-gravity conditions. In Israel, Stibbe’s initiatives are collectively known as the Rakia Space Mission.

Axiom Space and partners

Axiom Space, based in Texas, will maintain control over the mission throughout most phases of the flight. NASA remains responsible for the mission’s integrated operations, which include docking and departure from the International Space Station.

Leading provider of cyber security solutions, Check Point Software, is supporting the space mission by facilitating communications capabilities between astronauts and research teams, artists and educators; enabling the adaptation and modification of experiments in real-time.

Check Point Software is also accommodating a visitor center, with interactive elements and educational activities, in order to share knowledge and insight around human journeys into space.

Check Point Software

“In recent years, civilian companies have spent billions of dollars trying to create an ‘easy’ path into space which has created new technologies but in turn, new challenges for cyber security,” says Oded Vanunu, Head of Product Vulnerabilities Research at Check Point Software Technologies.

“With a huge amount of communication and data between spacecraft and Earth, every phase of the Rakia mission needs to be protected. We are proud to secure this vital communications between the space station and our control centre on Earth.”

The future of space travel

This mission may herald the dawn of a new age in commercial space flight. Space tourism began to surge last year, as Blue Origin began to transport paying customers on suborbital trips to the outer layers of space. Virgin Galactic also flew founder Richard Branson on a brief trajectory and began selling tickets for planned flights. Not to be left behind, SpaceX launched a mission.

Axiom Space notes that last week’s launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 differs from past launches in that the travelers are due to participate in valuable scientific experiments that could contribute to the advancement of science, technology, and other disciplines here on earth.

For more information about the SpaceX Falcon 9 mission, click here. Lastly, to receive cutting-edge cyber security news, insights, best practices and analyses in your inbox each week, sign up for the CyberTalk.org newsletter.