Axiom Space has announced the full crew complement for its third mission, Axiom Mission 3, to the International Space Station, after receiving NASA and ISS-partner approval for the four-person, multi-national team to travel to the orbiting laboratory no earlier than January 2024.
Ax-3 will be the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to launch to the ISS – redefining the pathway to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and helping chart a course toward Axiom Station, the world’s first commercial space station.
In an historic venture, three countries – Italy, Türkiye, and Sweden through the European Space Agency (ESA) – have united for Ax-3, with Axiom Space’s Chief Astronaut and Commander Michael López-Alegría leading the commercial mission, representing both the U.S. and Spain as a dual-citizen. The Ax-3 pilot is Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei, and the two mission specialists are Alper Gezeravcı of Türkiye and ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden. Villadei, Gezeravcı, and Wandt have extensive flight crew experience and have all served in their nation’s Air Forces.
“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, former NASA astronaut and Ax-1 commander. “This crew is shifting the paradigm of how governments and space agencies access and reap the benefits of microgravity. The Ax-3 mission will be transformational as it fosters partnerships outside the construct of the ISS and positions European nations as pioneers of the emerging commercial space industry. 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.”
As part of Ax-3, Türkiye is sending its first astronaut to space in a larger effort to expand the nation’s space exploration capabilities and establish a national human spaceflight program. Ax-3 will also be the first commercial spaceflight mission for an ESA-sponsored astronaut. For Italy, the Ax-3 mission represents a whole-of-country effort to foster its endeavor for safe, secure, and effective access to space.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Ax-3 crew aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the ISS from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once docked, the Ax-3 astronauts plan to spend up to 14 days on board implementing a full mission comprised of microgravity research, educational outreach, and commercial activities.
Axiom Space is currently the commercial space industry’s only full-service orbital mission provider conducting end-to-end crewed missions for private astronauts, both private individuals and those sponsored by governments. Axiom Space’s broad range of services – in collaboration with NASA and SpaceX – includes training and flying private astronauts, access to training facilities and instructors, hardware and safety certification, and operational on-orbit management.
Candidates for flight complete Axiom Space’s rigorous training curriculum over many months in preparation to live and work in space. The expert team at Axiom Space is helping nations and organizations build human spaceflight programs, develop astronaut selection programs, and provide the expertise needed to expand the international community of space explorers to a larger and more diverse representation of humanity.
Axiom Space is leveraging the capabilities and resources of the ISS to build the world’s first commercial space station, where access to space moves beyond the partners of the ISS to include countries, institutions, industries, and individuals with new ideas fueling a human economy beyond Earth. Private astronaut missions to the International Space Station are a precursor to Axiom Station and part of the efforts to develop a thriving LEO ecosystem and global space marketplace.