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Update: The launch is now scheduled for January 18. The below text has been updated to reflect the new launch date.

Axiom Space is gearing up to launch its third fully private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. Here’s all you need to know.

The crew of four will take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 at 4:49 PM EST on Friday, January 18. 

The crew is notable for being so international: it includes NASA astronaut and Axiom employee Michael López-Alegria; Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei; Alper Gezeravc, Turkey’s first astronaut; and Marcus Wandt, an astronaut with the European Space Agency. They will be traveling in a crew, dragon spacecraft, the same capsule built by SpaceX that ferries NASA astronauts to and from the ISS.

It will be López-Alegria’s six spaceflight and his second time traveling to the station with Axiom. Per NASA rules, all private missions to the ISS must be led by a former NASA astronaut. Villadei previously flew on Virgin Galactic’s first sub-orbital flight, Galactic 01, last summer.

The Dragon capsule is scheduled to autonomously dock with the ISS on Friday at 5:15 AM EST. The crew will stay on the station for 14 days, where they’ll conduct more than 30 scientific experiments and demonstrations. Axiom’s fourth mission is scheduled for as soon as October of this year.

The mission, called Ax-3, was originally scheduled for November 2023, but slipped due to weather and other scheduling issues with SpaceX. Houston-based Axiom’s first private mission launched in April 2022 and the second followed in May 2023. 

But Axiom is not stopping at private astronaut missions — as if that wasn’t ambitious enough. Instead, the company aims to eventually attach commercial modules to the ISS, that Axiom owns and operates, which would detach by the end of the decade to become a free-flying Axiom Space Station. The first section, which is being developed by European aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space, is scheduled to launch in 2026. While there are other private space station projects under development, notably by Blue Origin and Voyager Space, Axiom’s is the only one that will connect with the station before it is decommissioned in 2030. 

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MuskWire TLDR:

Axiom Space is preparing to launch its third fully private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on January 18. The crew of four, including NASA astronaut and Axiom employee Michael López-Alegria, Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei, Turkey’s first astronaut Alper Gezeravc, and European Space Agency astronaut Marcus Wandt, will take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. They will travel in a crew dragon spacecraft, the same capsule used by SpaceX to transport NASA astronauts to and from the ISS.

This mission, called Ax-3, was originally scheduled for November 2023 but experienced delays due to weather and scheduling issues with SpaceX. The Dragon capsule is set to autonomously dock with the ISS on Friday at 5:15 AM EST, and the crew will conduct over 30 scientific experiments and demonstrations during their 14-day stay on the station. Axiom’s fourth mission is planned for October of this year.

In addition to private astronaut missions, Axiom aims to attach commercial modules to the ISS that the company will own and operate. These modules will detach by the end of the decade to form a free-flying Axiom Space Station. The first section, being developed by European aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space, is scheduled to launch in 2026. Axiom’s project is unique among other private space station initiatives, such as those by Blue Origin and Voyager Space, as it will connect with the ISS before the station is decommissioned in 2030.