The Axiom-3 (Ax-3) mission successfully launched on January 18th, 2024, carrying the first all-European private crew to the International Space Station (ISS). The Ax-3 astronauts lifted off at 1:10pm EST onboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Ax-3 mission is the third private crewed flight contracted by Houston-based company Axiom Space to take researchers and astronauts to the ISS for scientific experiments and commercial activities.
The four-person crew includes:
- Eytan Stibbe (mission commander) – second Israeli in space after Ilan Ramon
- John Shulman – American investor and second UK-born citizen to fly to space
- Ali Güzeravcı – first Turkish astronaut
- Stefania Meda – fifth Italian woman to fly to space
The Ax-3 astronauts will spend two weeks living and working aboard the ISS conducting over 25 science experiments before returning to Earth.
Launch and Docking
Originally scheduled for January 17th, the launch was postponed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The next day provided good weather and the Falcon 9 rocket lifted off successfully.
The Crew Dragon separated from the rocket and entered orbit around 10 minutes after liftoff. It performed a series of maneuvers to catch up and autonomously dock with the space station on January 20th as the two vehicles passed 274 miles above the island of Madagascar.
Onboard the ISS
The Ax-3 crew received a warm welcome when they boarded the ISS to join Expedition 69 crewmates, including NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, Woody Hoburg, Loral O’Hara, European Space Agency astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko, Dmitri Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev.
During their stay, the Axiom astronauts will conduct scientific experiments in areas like self-assembling technology, airway inflammation and kidney health. They will also participate in outreach events by video link with students and space enthusiasts back on Earth.
Impact and What’s Next
The successful launch of Ax-3 highlights the expanding role of private companies in spaceflight. Axiom has big plans to launch multiple missions each year and ultimately construct a commercial module connected to the ISS.
The diverse makeup of the Ax-3 crew also signifies changing dynamics in human spaceflight, with more countries sending astronauts as part of commercial missions.
The all-European crew is scheduled to splashdown off the coast of Florida on February 2nd, completing a 16-day journey encompassing over 10 million miles.
- Second Israeli in space after Ilan Ramon who died in the Columbia disaster in 2003
- Fighter pilot and founding partner of Vital Capital investor group
- Will conduct 32 scientific experiments including on brain research and cardiac stem cells
- American-British investor funding his own trip
- Second UK-born citizen to fly in space
- Plans to showcase British innovation and stimulate youth interest in space
- First Turkish astronaut
- Aerospace engineer and lieutenant junior grade in Turkish Navy
- Will monitor effects of spaceflight on the body
- Lieutenant colonel in the Italian Air Force
- Will be 5th Italian woman in space out of 9 total Italian astronauts
- Pharmaceutical research on microgravity’s effects on immune system and bacteria
Ax-3 Crew Dragon Flight Sequence
Here is an outline of key mission events from launch to splashdown:
|Jan 18, 2024
|Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon launch from Kennedy Space Center at 1:10pm EST
|Main engine cut off
|Rocket motor shutdown approximately 2.5min after liftoff
|Spacecraft separates from rocket about 10min after launch
|Crew Dragon enters initial orbit
|Series of thruster firings to match velocity and altitude of ISS
|Automatic docking to Harmony module port at 8:57am EST
|Crew boards ISS approximately 2 hours after docking
|Jan 20 – Feb 1
|Conduct experiments and outreach while living aboard ISS
|Crew enters Dragon in preparation for departure
|Feb 2, 12:55am EST
|Crew Dragon detaches from ISS
|Thrusters fire to lower orbit for reentry
|Feb 2, 8:07pm EST
|Parachute-assisted ocean landing off Florida coast
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