Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe's first SpaceX flight delayed

Stibbe and the crew are set to spend 10 days in orbit working and living aboard the ISS before splashing down off the coast of Florida.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endeavor, carrying four astronauts, approaches the International Space Station orbiting the Earth (photo credit: MIKE HOPKINS/NASA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endeavor, carrying four astronauts, approaches the International Space Station orbiting the Earth
(photo credit: MIKE HOPKINS/NASA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Israeli astronaut Eytan Stibbe's SpaceX-operated Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) to the International Space Station (ISS) was delayed to launch no earlier than April 3, Axiom Space said on Friday.

Set to be Stibbe's first spaceflight, the Ax-1 mission's launch was set back to "allow teams to complete final spacecraft processing ahead of the mission," a joint statement by Axiom Space and SpaceX read.

Originally targeted to launch on March 30 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, the mission is the first-ever all-private crewed mission to the ISS.

Stibbe, a 62-year-old Israeli Air Force (IAF) veteran, spent 43 years in the IDF as a fighter jet pilot and flight instructor before acting as adviser to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

A close friend of first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, Stibbe established the Ramon Foundation with Ramon's family and close friends seven years after Ramon's death in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003.

Eytan Stibbe, who will become the second Israeli in space (credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)Eytan Stibbe, who will become the second Israeli in space (credit: MARK NEYMAN/GPO)

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post in 2020, Ramon Foundation director-general Ran Livne explained that Axiom and SpaceX's mission was a golden opportunity to send another Israeli to space in Ramon's honor. 

Stibbe and the crew, captained by experienced Spanish-American astronaut Michael López-Alegría, will spend 10 days in orbit working and living aboard the ISS before splashing down off the coast of Florida.

The astronauts have already completed a test drive, known as the Crew Equipment Interface Test (CEIT), on Thursday. During the CEIT, Stibbe and company entered for the first time the Crew Dragon Endeavour, the space capsule manufactured by SpaceX and used in NASA's commercial programs.

The delay has also caused a setback in the planned launch of the Crew-4 Mission, a SpaceX-contracted mission to NASA.