The Saudi Space Commission (SCC) has confirmed that the Saudi astronauts are ready for the mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this month, after completing the rigorous nine month training programme for the flight.

The astronauts, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni, will conduct 14 scientific research experiments in the microgravity environment including three educational awareness experiments during the mission on the ISS.

This comes within the Kingdom’s astronaut programme, that was announced last September as one of the strategic programmes the commission is executing.

Simulated space conditions

As part of their training, the astronauts underwent 12 days in simulated space conditions. During this time, they carried out the training related to the experiments that would be conducted on the mission; simulating the penetration of the Earth’s atmosphere and the accompanying effect of gravitational forces, rapid acceleration and the heavy pull of gravity on the human body.

They trained on all of the equipment and procedures necessary to complete the mission on the ISS with Axiom Space and SpaceX at the National Space Training and Research Center (NASTAR) – one of the state-of-the-art flight simulator facilities in Pennsylvania, US.

The astronauts underwent their training at the NASA Johnson Center within the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) programme which is designed to push people to the extremes and to prepare the team for their AX-2 mission to the ISS.

Inspiring students

The mission’s objective is to inspire students and those interested in space science, whilst stressing the importance of research, the lives of astronauts and the role of integrative science on improving the quality of life on Earth.

The astronauts underwent additional training last September on expeditionary skills at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

The training programme included instructing the astronauts on operational programs and operations that would be required aboard the ISS. In addition to conducting training programs at the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and European Space Agency (ESA) in January and February, they also carried out space payload merging exercises in March 2023. Additionally, training in weightlessness and floating practice, communication skills whilst in orbit and learning about side effects during spaceflight.
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