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Axiom Space Launches Third Commercial Astronaut Mission

Axiom Space
SpaceX and Axiom Space launch AX-3. Credit: SpaceX

Ibadan, 19 January 2024. – Axiom Space and SpaceX have successfully launched the Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) to the International Space Station (ISS). AX-3 is Axiom Space’s third commercial astronaut mission and it features an all-European crew. The mission launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard SpaceX’s Dragon Freedom spacecraft. The Scientists and crew will subsequently engage in technology demonstrations, student outreach, and experiments ranging from medical research to materials science to benefit life here on Earth.

The AX-3 Crew includes Ax-3 Commander Michael López-Alegria, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Spain; Pilot Walter Villadei, Italian Air Force Col. representing Italy; Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravci representing Türkiye; and Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt, ESA project astronaut representing Sweden. Ax-3 Commander Michael López-Alegria is a former NASA astronaut and was the commander of Axiom Mission 1.

The mission also represents the first time a Turkish astronaut will launch into space, in the person of Ax-3 Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravci. In another first, Ax-3 will be the first commercial astronaut mission to include a European Space Agency (ESA)-sponsored national astronaut, ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt.

Collaborative efforts between Axiom Space, SpaceX, and NASA ground personnel are now in full swing, as teams meticulously coordinate and ensure a viable interception of the space station. NASA is supporting private astronaut missions as part of its wider strategy to facilitate the development of commercial space stations to succeed the ISS when it retires at the end of the decade.

As Dragon moves through space, the spacecraft will autonomously navigate a careful and calculated rendezvous with the ISS. In addition, the Dragon spacecraft is now anticipated to dock at the space-facing port of the ISS Harmony module as early as 4:19 a.m. ET on January 20.

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