Axiom Space’s crew of four private astronauts returned to Earth on Friday, safely splashing down off the coast of Florida after an 18-day mission on the International Space Station (ISS).
The Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crew initially launched aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 18. On Wednesday, the spacecraft undocked from the ISS and then splashed down off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida, around 8:30 a.m. EST Friday.
The mission marked the space company’s third crewed mission to the ISS and the first commercial spaceflight of government and European Space Agency-sponsored national astronauts.
The Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crewmembers— commander Michael López-Alegría of the U.S. and Spain, pilot Walter Villadei of Italy, mission specialists Alper Gezeravci of Turkey and European Space Agency project astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden—float in microgravity during their mission to the International Space Station with Axiom Space. [Courtesy: Axiom Space]
While aboard the space outpost, the Ax-3 crew conducted more than 30 experiments, including microgravity research, along with more than 50 educational outreach engagements. The mission also marked a milestone toward Axiom Station—a commercial space station currently under construction that will operate in low-Earth orbit. The target launch for the private space station is 2026, according to the company.
“The successful return of our Ax-3 astronauts signifies more than just the completion of a human spaceflight mission,” Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini said. “It marks a pivotal moment in commercial space exploration and a significant milestone for Europe’s pursuits in low-Earth orbit.”
Axiom Space said it plans to launch its fourth mission to the ISS, dubbed Axiom Mission 4 (Ax-4), no earlier than October from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.