SpaceX launches 4 people for a private mission to the International Space Station
The first all-European commercial crew is on its way to the International Space Station after an early evening SpaceX launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Unlike a NASA mission, this one is paid for by Axiom Space, a Houston-based company flying its third group of paying passengers to the I.S.S. It contracts with SpaceX to get to and from the orbital laboratory. Axiom plans to build its own space station in orbit one day and it's using these missions to help in its planning and designs.
An attempt to launch the mission Wednesday was called off several hours before its scheduled flight. SpaceX and Axiom said they needed additional time "to complete pre-launch checkouts and data analysis, including the parachute system energy modulator." The next day SpaceX said, "all systems are looking good for today's launch" without elaborating further.
The capsule will take the next 36 hours racing to catch up to the I.S.S. as it circles about 250 miles above Earth. After docking, the crew will spend two weeks on the orbital laboratory performing about 30 experiments, including "microgravity research, technology demonstrations, and outreach engagements," according to Axiom.
This mission, called Ax-3, is flying a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft named Freedom. The capsule has flown in space twice previously and gone to the International Space Station each time (Crew-4 in 2022 and Ax-2in 2023). Freedom has spent a total of 179 days in space.
The Ax-3 crew is led by Axiom chief astronaut Michael López-Alegría (A dual U.S.-Spanish citizen and former NASA astronaut and ISS commander). He'll serve as the Ax-3 commander and is joined by three paying passengers: Pilot Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force, and mission specialists Alper Gezeravcı of Turkey and Marcus Wandt of Sweden and the European Space Agency.
For Gezeravcı, who is the first Turkish astronaut to go to space, "This spaceflight is not a destination but a journey. This is just the beginning of our journey - for a long growing space journey in our future."
The Ax-3 crew will join seven other people currently on the I.S.S.
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