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SpaceX to launch 3rd private astronaut mission to the ISS

A SpaceX crew dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. Credit SpaceX
A SpaceX crew dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. Credit SpaceX


London, 15 December 2023.- Axiom Space announced it plans to launch its third mission, Ax-3, on the 9th of January 2024.  Four commercial astronauts will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft.

The crew will be led by former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, a dual US-Spanish citizen, who commanded Ax-1 in 2022 and serves as the company’s chief astronaut. He will be joined by Walter Villadei, an Italian Air Force Colonel who flew to suborbital space on Virgin Galactic’s first commercial launch in June; Marcus Wandt, a European Space Agency project astronaut; and Alper Gezeravcı, Turkey’s first citizen in space. 

On the previous Ax-1 mission crew members required assistance from the ISS agency astronauts to complete the objects. López-Alegría believes that lessons learned from this mission will allow Ax-3 to complete its 30 assigned experiments in two weeks. 

The company’s space excursions are preparing for future missions with agency astronauts and commercial astronauts working alongside each other. Axiom is planning to put a set of private modules on the ISS, starting in 2026, which will eventually detach to create a free-flying space station. 

Axiom’s president, Matt Ondler, said that Ax-3 is “not cheaper” than Ax-1 was — but he hopes future missions may be. “The driving cost, of course, is the launch provider, [but] I think SpaceX gets more and more efficient all the time with their operations”.

NASA funded three coalitions in December 2021 to encourage the development of commercial space stations that could succeed the ISS, which is expected to retire at the end of 2030. 

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