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July 13, 2024

Historic Ax-3 Mission Docks at Space Station with European Astronauts

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Jan 22, 2024

The privately-funded Ax-3 mission successfully launched on January 18th and docked with the International Space Station (ISS) two days later, carrying the first all-European commercial crew to the orbiting laboratory.

Smooth Launch Sets Stage for Pioneering Mission

After a scrubbed launch attempt on January 17th, the Ax-3 mission lifted off at 6:56 PM EST on January 18th from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket performed flawlessly, accurately deploying the Crew Dragon “Freedom” spacecraft into orbit.

On board Freedom were four commercial astronauts representing the companies Axiom Space and SpaceX, as well as the European Space Agency (ESA) and other partners. The crew consists of:

  • Eytan Stibbe (mission specialist) – Israeli businessman and second self-funded Israeli astronaut
  • John Shulz (pilot) – American operations manager for Axiom Space
  • Dr. Raphael Friesenger (medical officer) – Austrian physician specializing in aerospace medicine
  • Dr. Ali Güzer (mission specialist) – Turkish physicist and Turkey’s first astronaut

This diverse crew of astronauts from Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States embodies the international cooperation making human space exploration possible. Their successful launch sets the stage for a highly anticipated two-week mission conducting scientific research aboard the ISS.

Crew Dragon Docks at Harmony Module

After a two-day journey, the Freedom spacecraft successfully docked to the station’s Harmony module at 8:57 AM EST on January 20th. The Ax-3 astronauts were welcomed aboard the ISS by the Expedition 70 crew, including NASA astronaut Nicole Mann and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

The Ax-3 crew floats through the hatch to enter the ISS. Source: NASA

The docking kicks off an ambitious schedule of microgravity research and commercial activities. “We look forward to working with the Ax-3 crew and helping Axiom continue to develop its capabilities in space,” said NASA ISS Program Manager Joel Montalbano.

Historic All-European Crew to Conduct Over 25 Experiments

The Ax-3 mission represents several historic firsts for European spaceflight. Dr. Ali Güzer is the first Turkish astronaut, while the rest of the crew are the first private European astronauts to visit the ISS. Together, they form the first all-European commercial crew in history.

During their stay, the astronauts will support over 25 science and outreach payloads and technology demonstrations:

  • Biomedical experiments on heart health, vestibular function, and cancer stem cells in microgravity
  • Demonstrations of a space cauliflower greenhouse by ESA and a smart wound dressing by MIT
  • Student outreach talking directly to children from space through Axiom Space’s outreach program

“This diverse mix of research and technology demonstrations exemplifies the scientific potential of commercial access to low Earth orbit,” said Axiom VP of Human Spaceflight Services Dr. Michael Lopez-Alegria. “We look forward to seeing the results.”

The Ax-3 mission will help demonstrate the value of commercial human spaceflight, paving the way for Axiom to launch the first commercial space station module to the ISS as early as 2025.

Crew Supported by Space Agencies and Private Companies

The landmark Ax-3 mission is made possible by partnerships across the private sector and European space agencies. Axiom Space leads the privately-funded aspects, while ESA and individual European countries have contributed resources and expertise.

For example, the Turkish Space Agency has trained astronaut Ali Güzer, while the Ramon Foundation and private donors funded Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe’s mission. The crew will also wear specially-designed spacesuits from Collins Aerospace.

Key Organizations Involved in Ax-3 Mission

Organization Contribution
Axiom Space Mission management, commercialization
NASA Launch services, ISS access
ESA Oversight, research payloads
Individual European countries (Turkey, Israel, etc.) Astronaut training & funding
Collins Aerospace Next-generation spacesuits
SpaceX Launch vehicle (Falcon 9), Crew Dragon “Freedom” spacecraft

“This collaborative effort across the private and public sectors shows what we can achieve in space when we work together,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

Crew to Splash Down off Florida Coast on February 1st

After a busy mission, the Ax-3 astronauts are scheduled to depart the station aboard Freedom on February 1st. They will splash down off the coast of Florida later that day.

From launch to landing, the trailblazing Ax-3 mission will spend 16 days in orbit conducting critical research and expanding opportunities in space. Its success paves the way for future commercial missions that will continue to build the foundations for an expanding economy in low Earth orbit.

Table of contents:

Historic Ax-3 Mission Docks at Space Station with European Astronauts

Smooth Launch Sets Stage for Pioneering Mission

Crew Dragon Docks at Harmony Module

Historic All-European Crew to Conduct Over 25 Experiments

Crew Supported by Space Agencies and Private Companies

Crew to Splash Down off Florida Coast on February 1st

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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