At the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, USA, ESA signed a letter of intent with the Swedish National Space Agency to send an ESA astronaut to visit the International Space Station on an Axiom mission.
The flight and the name of the astronauts assigned to the mission will need to be approved by the partners of the International Space Station as well as the commercial flight operator Axiom.
ESA’s Director General Josef Aschbacher said after signing the letter of intent, “The ESA astronaut policy was developed for exactly these opportunities, flying on commercial flights in partnership as we transition Europe’s access to space and diversify the space market.
“I hope to see more Europeans working inside ESA’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station soon.”
The intent is to send an ESA astronaut who would fly with Axiom as a project astronaut and start training at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, for the flight, with an ambitious scientific and educational programme for their 10-day stay aboard the Space Station developed by ESA and the Swedish National Space Agency.
ESA would be the crew provider for this mission and will sign an agreement with Axiom to define and implement the mission and will prepare all the operational support needed for such a flight. The Swedish National Space Agency will negotiate directly with Axiom for the flight.
In November last year ESA announced Career and Reserve astronauts as well as an astronaut with a physical disability at the ESA Council at Ministerial Level. ESA’s five Career astronauts started training at EAC last month.
The Swedish National Space Agency represents Sweden in ESA and the majority of the Swedish space budget is invested in ESA programmes. Being a member of ESA provides Swedish scientists and industry access to space technology advanced international space projects.
ESA, the Swedish National Space Agency, and the government of Sweden will host a press event with more details on the mission and assignment at a later date once the astronaut is confirmed by the Space Station partners and Axiom.