|September 12, 2023 |
NASA, Partners Clear Axiom Space’s Third Private Astronaut Crew
NASA and its international partners approved the crew for Axiom Space’s third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, launching from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than January 2024.
Axiom Space’s chief astronaut and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría will command the private mission. Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei will serve as pilot. The two mission specialists are Alper Gezeravci of Turkey and ESA (European Space Agency) project astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden.
Private astronaut missions to the space station help pave the way toward commercial space stations as part of NASA’s efforts to develop a thriving low Earth orbit ecosystem and marketplace and enable more nations, more people, and more opportunities in space than ever before.
“I am proud to see NASA and industry’s continued dedication toward enabling private astronaut missions,” said Angela Hart, manager, NASA’s Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development Program at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “These commercial efforts continue to expand opportunity and access to microgravity research and discovery. Each of these missions is a next step in building our shared future in low Earth orbit.”
Axiom Mission 3, or Ax-3, crew will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket inside a Dragon spacecraft and will travel to the space station. Once docked, the private astronauts plan to spend up to 14 days aboard the orbiting laboratory implementing a mission comprised of science, outreach, and commercial activities. The mission will send the first Turkish astronaut to space and will be the first commercial mission for an ESA-sponsored astronaut.
“It is an honor to command another private astronaut mission with Axiom Space and lead a dynamic crew of professional operators representing several nations across one region of the world,” said López-Alegría. “This crew is shifting the paradigm of how governments and space agencies access and reap the benefits of microgravity… I look forward to working with this team and with all those who will support our mission on the ground, on orbit, and around the world.”
NASA and Axiom Space signed an order for the fourth private astronaut mission targeted to launch no earlier than August 2024. The first private astronaut mission to the station was Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), also commanded by López-Alegría and launched in April 2022, with four private astronauts who spent 17 days in orbit working science and outreach engagements. A year later, the second private astronaut mission, Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2), lifted off in May 2023 for a nine-day mission aboard the orbiting laboratory conducting unique scientific and outreach activities.
For nearly 23 years, NASA has supported a continuous U.S. human presence in low Earth orbit aboard the space station. The agency's goal is to enable a strong, commercial marketplace in low Earth orbit where NASA is one of many customers for private industry. This strategy will provide services the government needs at a lower cost, enabling the agency to focus on its Artemis missions to the Moon in preparation for Mars while continuing to use low Earth orbit as a training and proving ground for those deep space missions.
For more information about NASA’s commercial low Earth orbit economy effort, visit:
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