Axiom Space prepares for third private mission Ax-3: military pilots for the first time on the ISS

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Axiom Space has refined and optimized preparations for the Ax-3 mission based on experiences from the first two missions. The entire crew of the new mission consists of former military pilots.

Axiom Space is preparing for the Ax-3 mission to the ISS, scheduled to launch in January 2024 on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission will be commanded by former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who will be along with three passengers: Walter Villadei from Italy, Alper Gezeravci from Turkey, and Markus Wandt from Sweden.

Axiom Space
Axiom Space

During an Oct. 16 mission briefing, Lopez-Alegria and company officials said preparations for the proposed two-week mission were progressing well and were building on the experience of the first two missions, including the Ax-1 mission that Lopez-Alegria commanded in 2021.

“The training has changed in a significant way. Based on the previous two missions, we figured out how to best optimize preparation,” Lopez-Alegria said of preparations for Ax-3. He noted that there were activities in preparation for Ax-1 “that were probably not relevant” to the mission. There was not enough emphasis “on the crew’s ability to manage time while on station.”

Axiom Space prepares for third private mission Ax-3: military pilots for the first time on the ISS

He noted that compared to Ax-1, his schedule had reduced experiment time in favor of allowing more time to assist commanders and to reduce their dependence on professional astronauts on the station. The company used a similar approach on the Ax-2 mission in May, commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, and it worked well, Lopez-Alegria noted.

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He also said that training for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has become more efficient: “I feel like we’re getting closer to the ideal training plan, and I would say we got very close to it by the time we finished training for the Ax-3 mission.” “

Another factor that helped prepare for the mission is that all four crew members have military pilot experience, with Gezeravci and Villaday being active members of their respective countries’ air forces. “This is an incredibly prepared crew. For a private astronaut mission, this is an exceptional case. The level of training and experience that these individuals bring to our crew is impressive,” Lopez-Alegria said.