UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi to travel to space station in February on six-month mission

Emirati astronaut will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

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Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is preparing to launch on a six-month mission to the International Space Station in mid-February, Nasa says.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry the Dragon Crew spacecraft into space, with Dr Al Neyadi and American and Russian colleagues on board.

The Nasa/SpaceX Crew-6 mission will launch from the Kennedy Space Centre in the US state of Florida.

"Nasa and SpaceX are targeting mid-February 2023 for launch of the agency’s Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station," Nasa said.

"The crew will spend approximately six months on the space station, starting with a short handover with Crew-5, which arrived at the station in October for a science expedition at the microgravity laboratory."

The crew includes Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev.

Who is Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi?

Who is Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi?

Nasa said that the SpaceX certification and Falcon 9 hardware are on track for the mission.

This will be the UAE's second ISS mission, after Hazza Al Mansouri spent eight days on the orbiting science laboratory in 2019.

For that mission, the Emirates teamed up with Russian space agency Roscosmos and Maj Al Mansouri launched on a Soyuz rocket.

This time, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre ― the organisation that oversees the UAE Astronaut Programme ― was able to secure a mission through US-based Axiom Space, a company that arranges private trips to space.

Nasa owed Axiom Space a seat on a Falcon 9 rocket, after the company gave up its spot on a Soyuz rocket in 2021 for American astronaut Mark Vande Hei.

An agreement was signed between Axiom and MBRSC in April.

Since then, Dr Al Neyadi has been training in the US to prepare for the mission, including time at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, SpaceX's headquarters in California and at the launch site in Florida.

It is likely that two Saudi astronauts will be on the space station at the same as Dr Al Neyadi, marking the first time Arab astronauts from different countries are in space together.

The two Saudi citizens, one of whom is female, plan to launch on AX-2, a private mission to the ISS arranged by Axiom Space.

It is expected to launch at the beginning of May for a 10-day trip to the station.

Updated: November 04, 2022, 12:53 PM