The Saudi Space Commission launches the AX-2 mission today

A momentous occasion as the first Arab Female Astronaut, Rayyanah Barnawi travels into space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 22, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Two Saudi astronauts, Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni are part of the AX-2 space mission which launched today at 22:37 BST / 21:37 GMT. The mission consists of four astronauts all travelling towards the International Space Station (ISS) to conduct ground-breaking scientific research experiments. Joining the crew are Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who now flies for Axiom and John Shoffner, the pilot.

Astronaut Ali AlQarni


The AX-2 mission launches atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and crewmates will travel to and from the ISS in a SpaceX Dragon 2 capsule named Freedom. The 12-day trip marks an important historical event for Saudi Arabia, but also for women across the world, as Rayyanah Barnawi becomes the first ever female astronaut from Saudi Arabia to travel into space.

Upon arrival, the astronauts will be conducting 14 scientific pioneering experiments in microgravity, including the repercussions of space on human health and rain-seeding technology, which will contribute to increasing rainfall in many countries. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, there will also be educational experiments conducted aboard the ISS in real time with 12,000 students viewing from Saudi. The aim is to inspire the future generation of scientists and aspiring astronauts and encourage more young women and girls to follow STEM careers.

Rayyanah Barnawi says “Space research hovers over all of humanity, literally and figuratively. As such, it should include the voices and perspectives of a truly global community that involves not only a diversity of nations, but a diversity of people. I am honoured to represent Saudi Arabia’s growing contributions to this field and proud to be the first Saudi Arabian woman to go to space. I hope this mission will inspire girls from various backgrounds, who have not always had these opportunities, to embrace their talents and intellect, and to know they have a crucial role to play in advancing the human experience.”

The success of this mission will enhance Saudi Arabia’s global position within the field of space exploration and underline its service to humanity. It will place a cornerstone in the astronauts’ program which is designed to prepare future astronauts and engineers, through quality educational and training programs, participation in scientific experiments, international research, and future space-related missions – ultimately helping to achieve the goals of Vision 2030. 

H.E. Dr Mohammed Al-Tamimi, The Governor of the Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) and CEO of Saudi Space Commission (SSC) adds “ahead of us lies a promising future in space, one which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are keen to shape in partnership with the world. SSC, CST, and the Kingdom at large are not engaged in a space race but are invested in a shared journey with a clear mission: to enable humanity to unlock the potential that space holds for future generations to flourish.”

Source company: Saudi Space Commission (SCC)

About The Saudi Space Commission (SSC):

The Saudi Space Commission was established by the royal order in December of 2018 (Rabi II 1440). This bold step serves a future that is innovative and looks forward to the latest technologies and opportunities in the Saudi Space Industry.

With the Kingdom moving towards a progressive quality of life, SSC demonstrates the aligned vision of creating better, secure environments for its citizens while actively enabling prospects of lucrative economic and monetary inventions.

The SSC has strategized to create primary objectives that serve national security interests against space related risks and encourage cumulative growth and advancement.


Astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi


AX-2 Mission crew