SpaceX to launch private Ax-3 mission on Jan. 18

On January 17, SpaceX will launch private astronauts on an Ax-3 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft will commence its journey to the orbiting laboratory from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The liftoff will take off at 4:49 p.m. EST (2149 GMT). During the liftoff, the SpaceX Dragon capsule stacked atop the Falcon 9 rocket will transport the four Ax-3 astronauts skyward toward the International Space Station.

“We’re happy to say that we’re on track — we’re ready,” Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight programs at SpaceX, said during a call with reporters on Tuesday evening (Jan. 16).

Since the weather looks calm, there is a greater chance that Mother Nature will allow SpaceX to launch the spacecraft on time, the mission team members revealed during the telecon.

What You Should Know about the Ax-3 Mission to ISS

The Ax-3 mission astronauts that will be participating in this mission include the mission commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut who is currently working for Axiom; Col. Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force; European Space Agency astronaut Marcus Wandt; and Alper Gezeravcı, who will become the first citizen of Turkey ever to fly to space.

During the Ax-1 mission which was launched in April 2022, Michael López-Alegría also served as the mission commander to the ISS. However, during Ax-2 mission to ISS in May 2023, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson commanded the mission. Currently, Whitson has spent more than 675 days in space more than any other American.

Since NASA requires that all private crewed missions to the International Space Station be led by its former astronaut, Axiom Space has once again appointed López-Alegría. The Ax-3 astronauts are expected to conduct more than 30 science experiments during their stay aboard the ISS, Axiom Space reveals.

“Data collected on the ground before and after the mission as well as in-flight will impact understanding of human physiology on Earth and orbit, as well as advance scientific understanding, harness opportunities for industrial advancements and develop technologies for humanity’s progress,” the company wrote in a mission description.

NASA and Axiom Space will perform a series of launch readiness reviews (LRR) before the mission lift-off. Once the LRR goes as planned, the Falcon 9 rocket will proceed to lift the four astronauts into space to commence their journey to the International Space Station. The Ax-3 astronauts will spend about two weeks aboard the ISS.

How to Watch Ax-3 launch into space

You can watch SpaceX launch Ax-3 astronauts for free online on Space.com, or you can Axiom Space YouTube Channel. SpaceX and Axiom Space will host their joint webcast which will start at 2:30 p.m. EST (1845 GMT) on January 18. You can either watch the webcast on the Axiom Space YouTube channel or the SpaceX X account (formerly known as Twitter).

NASA’s live stream will be hosted on NASA TV and NASA+. NASA will broadcast the SpaceX/Axiom, Space broadcast at 1:30 p.m. EST, then will surely join the coverage at 2:30 p.m. EST (1845 GMT). NASA’s launch coverage will end in about 15 minutes after the initial launch.

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