Axiom-3 (Falcon 9)
18 January 2024
Launch Complex 39A
Kennedy Space Center

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Axiom Space’s Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) to the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 4:49 p.m. on 18 January 2024. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The Dragon spacecraft supporting this mission previously flew Crew-4 and Ax-2 to and from the space station.

During their time on the orbiting laboratory, the crew will conduct more than 30 scientific experiments and demonstrations focused on human physiology and technological industrial advancements.


Three countries – Italy, Türkiye, Sweden – along with the European Space Agency (ESA), have united for Ax-3 to become the first, all-European commercial astronaut mission to the ISS, and, in doing so, are boldly positioning their governments and space agencies as future leaders and customers in low-Earth orbit (LEO) post-ISS.

For the first time, ESA is teaming with a commercial space company to send one of its project astronauts to space, a ground-breaking venture demonstrating a pivot from the decades-long reliance on NASA and Roscosmos for access to the orbiting laboratory and to microgravity research, technology development, in-space manufacturing, and outreach.

The importance of this moment lies in its transformative effect on international collaboration in space, with the potential to foster partnerships outside the construct of the ISS and position European nations as pioneers of the emerging commercial space industry.

Once docked, the Ax-3 astronauts plan to spend their time aboard the orbiting laboratory implementing a full mission comprised of microgravity research, technology demonstrations, and outreach engagements.

Ax-3 crew photo: Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt, Commander Michael López-Alegría, Pilot Col. Walter Villadei, and Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravci. IMAGE CREDIT: AXIOM SPACE

Ax-3 Commander Michael López-Alegría is the chief astronaut for Axiom Space and was the commander of the Ax-1 mission, which was the first all-private astronaut mission to the ISS. As a NASA astronaut, López-Alegría participated in four missions to space – Space Shuttle missions STS-73, STS-92, and STS- 113, and commander of ISS Expedition 14, flying to and from the ISS aboard Soyuz TMA-9. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2021. His leadership on Ax-3 will leverage his experience from traditional government space exploration to help forge the new era of commercial human spaceflight. López-Alegría was born in Madrid, Spain, and immigrated to the United States with his family. This mission provides an opportunity for López-Alegría to engage with communities across Spain and inspire the nation (and European region) to pursue unique opportunities now available through the commercialization of LEO.

Ax-3 Pilot Col. Walter Villadei will be the 8th Italian astronaut to go to space (the 7th Italian astronaut coming from the Italian Air Force). Col. Villadei was trained as cosmonaut between 2011-2019, fully qualified in Star City, Russia, on Soyuz as left seat flight engineer and on ISS ROS systems, as well as for EVA with the Orlan system. Col. Villadei along his carrier has served in several roles within ITAF and the Italian space program. He was member of the Italian Space Agency Scientific Committee and of ITAF Air Staff Space Department. Col. Villadei will be the first Italian astronaut to fly on a commercial mission to the ISS, outside the current Italy-ESA and Italy-NASA human spaceflight agreements, paving the way for a new model of government and private astronaut missions to the ISS and CLD. Col. Walter Villadei will be an ambassador of his nation’s space policy and the country’s scientific endeavors in space.

Ax-3 Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravci will be the first-ever Turkish astronaut to go to space. As a fighter pilot with the Turkish Air Force, Gezeravci has over 15 years of military flight experience on multiple aircrafts, including the T-41, SF-260, T-37, T-38, F-5, F-KC- 135 and F-16 fighter jet. In addition, he served in roles as a First Officer and Captain with Turkish Airlines for 7 years. Gezeravci has served as a fighter pilot, flight leader, flight safety officer, academic wing commander, and commercial airlines captain.

Ax-3 Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt will be the second Swedish ESA astronaut in history following Christer Fuglesang who flew to the International Space Station in 2006 and 2009. Wandt will also be the first-ever Swedish military officer to go to space. Wandt will be the first ESA project astronaut since the concept was introduced during the astronaut selection of 2021/2022. Engaging a project astronaut in a commercial mission will give apt training for future dedicated ESA missions to the ISS and beyond.

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