Axiom-3: Launching the First All-European Private Crew to the ISS

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Axiom-3:Launching the First All-European Private Crew to the ISS

The next chapter in commercial human spaceflight is set to begin on January 17, 2024. Axiom Space is launching its third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, nicknamed Axiom-3, which will carry the first ever all-European commercial crew into orbit.

Axiom-3 will launch 4 astronauts on a SpaceX Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After a 2-day journey, they will dock with the ISS for a 14-day science and outreach mission.

In this article, we’ll look at key details on the Axiom-3 mission including:

  • Profiles of the 4 European astronauts
  • Research goals and experiments
  • Outreach activities planned
  • Launch date, rocket and trajectory
  • Axiom’s vision for commercial space stations

So let’s get to know the pioneers of this historic private spaceflight.

Meet the Axiom-3 Astronaut Crew

Meet the Axiom-3 Astronaut Crew

The Axiom-3 crew represents a diverse range of European nations and backgrounds unified in human space exploration:

Commander Michael López-Alegría – A former NASA astronaut and Axiom’s Chief Astronaut, he was born in Spain and will be commanding his second mission for Axiom. He is one of the world’s most experienced astronauts having flown to space 4 times previously including a long-duration stay on the ISS.

Pilot Walter Villadei – An active colonel in the Italian Air Force who has trained extensively in Russia on Soyuz spacecraft and flew suborbital on Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight. He leads Italy’s office overseeing commercial space initiatives.

Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravcı – A former fighter pilot and squadron commander in the Turkish Air Force who will make history as Turkey’s first-ever astronaut in space. He has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Aeronautical Engineering.

Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt – A Swedish European Space Agency astronaut who brings over 20 years of military fighter jet experience. He is also the Chief Pilot at the aerospace company Saab.

This accomplished crew of 4 will take the helm of science research, technology demonstrations, and educational outreach during their two weeks in orbit.

Axiom-3 : Research Goals Pioneering Science in Microgravity

Research Goals: Pioneering Science in Microgravity

Conducting research in the microgravity environment of space is a key goal for the Axiom-3 mission. Some areas of focus include:

  • Biomedical Studies – Detailed research on the impacts of microgravity and radiation on the human body including the brain, muscles, bones, vision, and cardiovascular health to better understand the effects on astronauts during long-duration spaceflight missions.
  • Materials Science – Testing manufacturing of advanced alloys, crystals, and thin films in microgravity that can lead to discoveries in metallurgy, semiconductors, and more. Taking advantage of weightlessness enables materials production not possible on Earth.
  • Fluid Physics – Examining the behaviour of liquids and gases in microgravity reveals insights into fundamental physics that can improve satellite fuel systems, water purification, and more back on Earth.
  • Space Greenhouses – Growing vegetable crops on the ISS provides data on supporting food production for future long-term missions to the Moon and Mars as humans expand into deep space.
  • Earth Observation – Using the vantage point of the ISS to capture unique hyperspectral and infrared images of Earth that can further climate change research and environmental monitoring efforts.

The crew will spend much of their time working on cutting-edge science experiments contributed by European government space agencies, academic institutions, and private companies.

Education and Outreach: Inspiring the Public

In addition to research, Axiom-3 has an extensive outreach agenda planned over its two weeks in space including:

  • The astronauts will conduct over 50 outreach events speaking with schools, media and public figures. Events will be coordinated with the European Space Agency.
  • These virtual events aim to educate the public on human space exploration and inspire students to pursue careers in STEM fields.
  • Outreach will especially target young students in the crew’s home nations to motivate the next generation.
  • Live in-flight video tours will provide a direct connection to astronauts on the ISS. The crew plans to link up with classrooms to answer student questions.
  • Each astronaut will share unique perspectives from their nation’s culture and history.
  • The crew will share Earth observations and science images to engage the public.

Public outreach is a fundamental purpose of these private missions to share the experience of space with youth worldwide.

Launching Axiom-3: Rocket, Date and Trajectory

The Axiom-3 mission is slated to lift off at 5:11 pm EST on January 17, 2024, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center:

  • The 4 astronauts will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a Crew Dragon capsule bound for the ISS in low Earth orbit.
  • Liftoff is scheduled from the historic Pad 39A which has launched Apollo moon missions, Space Shuttle flights, and previous SpaceX crew and cargo missions.
  • The SpaceX rocket will propel Axiom-3 into orbit on a 36-hour rendezvous trajectory with the ISS.
  • Docking at the space station’s Harmony module port is set for approximately 5:15 am EST on January 20.

This will be the first crewed launch from US soil in 2024, continuing a new era in commercial human spaceflight.

Axiom 3's Vision: The World's First Commercial Space Station

Axiom’s Vision: The World’s First Commercial Space Station

What makes Axiom Space such a pioneer in commercial spaceflight? It is the first private company to construct the world’s first commercial space station in Earth orbit.

Some key facts about the planned Axiom Station:

  • Axiom has contracted with NASA to attach habitation modules to the ISS, then detach them once the ISS is retired around 2030.
  • The first Axiom module is slated to launch in 2026 with the complete commercial station potentially operational in the 2027-2028 timeframe.
  • Axiom Station will support cutting-edge research, space manufacturing, and space tourism.
  • Countries and companies will contract with Axiom for crew and cargo transportation and station access.
  • While highly ambitious, Axiom can leverage the expertise of leaders like CEO Mike Suffredini, a former longtime NASA ISS program manager.

The Axiom Station will build on the foundation of missions like Axiom-3 to enable a thriving commercial economy in Earth orbit.


Q: How many total astronauts will launch on Axiom-3?

A: There will be 4 crew members total – a commander, a pilot and two mission specialists.

Q: What is the most spaceflights the commander has been on?

A: Commander Michael López-Alegría is a veteran of 4 previous spaceflights over his career.

Q: What types of research will crew members conduct?

A: Biomedical, materials science, fluid physics, Earth observation, and space agriculture experiments.

Q: How long will Axiom-3 be docked to the ISS?

A: The mission is planned for approximately 14 days docked to the space station.

Q: What year could Axiom’s commercial space station be operational?

A: Axiom targets having the complete commercial space station in orbit in the 2027-2028 timeframe.

Q: How many outreach events will Axiom-3 conduct?

A: The crew plans to perform over 50 educational public outreach events from orbit.

Q: What rocket company is launching Axiom-3?

A: Axiom-3 will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center.


The upcoming Axiom-3 launch signifies an exciting shift as private companies enable broader global access to human spaceflight. This historic mission will send the first all-European crew to the ISS showcasing the expanding international nature of space exploration.

With commander, Michael López-Alegría’s extensive experience, astronauts from Italy, Turkey and Sweden will act as ambassadors in orbit conducting impactful research and outreach. Axiom-3 also advances Axiom Space’s vision to construct the first private space station and open up new avenues of opportunity in low Earth orbit. As the final countdown begins for this groundbreaking flight, Axiom-3 highlights the future of inclusive human space travel.


The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only. All details are subject to change as per official announcements from Axiom Space, SpaceX and NASA. All statistics and factual data are sourced from publicly available reports. This blog is not affiliated with or endorsed by any space agency or company.

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