Axiom Space prepares for 1st launch with all-European crew

Axiom Space plans to launch its third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station as soon as Wednesday from Florida, marking the first time an all-European commercial crew heads to the orbiting laboratory.

The Houston-based commercial space company is targeting Wednesday at 5:11 p.m. ET for SpaceX to launch three Axiom Space private astronauts and Axiom Space Commander Michael López-Alegría to the ISS. The four crew will launch on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket in a Crew Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center launchpad 39A. 


The Ax-3 mission includes Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force (ItAF), Alper Gezeravci of Turkey, and Marcus Wandt with the European Space Agency (ESA). 

Valladei is a colonel in the ItAF and the head of ItAF's U.S. office of commercial spaceflight initiatives. A native of Rome, Villadei has undergone training in Russia as a Soyuz flight engineer, has been training with Axiom Space since 2021 and flew with Virgin Galactic on the company's first commercial suborbital flight in June 2023.  


(Left) Ax-3 Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt, Pilot Walter Villadei, Commander Michael López-Alegría, Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravcı (Right) (Credit: Axiom Space)


Wandt is a former fighter pilot for the Swedish Air Force and a current ESA project astronaut. Wandt will be the second-ever Swedish astronaut to visit the International Space Station.  


The new spacesuit is carried out during the Axiom Space Artemis III Lunar Spacesuit event at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas, (Credit: Mark Felix / AFP / Getty Images)

Gezeravci will be the first Turkish astronaut to go into space. He was a fighter pilot for the Turkish Air Force and served as a captain with Turkish Airlines. He was most recently the Standardization Squadron Academic Wing Commander in Adana, Turkey.

While in orbit, the crew will conduct 30 experiments in microgravity. The crew members will work on research from their home countries "of high national importance," according to Axiom Space. The Ax-3 experiment topics include biomedical research, sleep, bone health, space weather and cooking pasta in space. 


A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center for the Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) on May 21, 2023 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: Paul Hennesy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

It's been a busy year for the commercial spaceflight company working to construct a private space station and developing spacesuits for NASA to be worn by the next astronauts to walk on the Moon

In March, the company revealed its prototype of the lunar spacesuits for NASA's Artemis III mission astronauts. Axiom Space completed its second mission in May, carrying four private astronauts to the ISS.

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The Ax-3 mission will be the second with Axiom Space for López-Alegría, the company's chief astronaut, who was formerly a NASA astronaut. He was also the commander on the Axiom SpaceX's inaugural mission to the ISS in April 2022.

Axiom Space, NASA, SpaceX and Space Force officials will complete a Launch Readiness Review on Monday to verify all hardware for launch is ready to fly.

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