A team of four individuals from different countries boarded a SpaceX capsule attached to a Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday for a practice countdown. This prepares them for the launch on Wednesday of a privately-funded research mission to the International Space Station.
Former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, along with Italian co-pilot Walter Villadei, Swedish European Space Agency astronaut Marcus Wandt, and Turkey’s Alper Gezeravci, practiced launch-day protocols on their Crew Dragon spacecraft in preparation for an engine test fire, before leaving the launch pad.
Several hours afterwards, SpaceX technicians activated the Falcon 9’s initial stage engines to confirm their preparedness for takeoff. Assuming everything proceeds smoothly, López-Alegría and his three fellow crew members will re-enter the spacecraft on Wednesday at 5:11 p.m. EST to begin an automated 36-hour journey to rendezvous with the space station.
The initial commercial trip to the International Space Station is scheduled for April 2022. The individual is a dual citizen of the United States and Spain.
For the Ax-3 mission, his fellow crew members consist of experienced European military pilots and flight engineers who also have a lot of management background. Wandt and Gezeravci are embarking on their inaugural space journey, while Villadei was part of a previous sub-orbital trip with Virgin Galactic’s winged spaceplane last year.
If the launch on Wednesday goes according to schedule, the Ax-3 fliers will arrive at the space station on Friday, increasing the crew size to 11 temporarily. During their two-week visit, the Ax-3 fliers intend to conduct over 30 experiments with a focus on understanding the impact of weightlessness on different physical and cognitive elements.
Lucie Low, Chief Scientist at Axiom, stated that this is the inaugural European mission to have four European astronauts representing their respective countries and the European Space Agency.
“We are thrilled to build upon the achievements of Ax-2 by further growing the international microgravity research community. This will provide opportunities for new researchers from various countries to experience microgravity for the first time.”
In a more positive tone, Barilla, an Italian company, has created pre-made pasta that can be warmed up and sampled for taste. According to Axiom, this is part of their initiative to expand the selection of delicious food options in space for upcoming space travelers.
On Wednesday, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will embark on its 12th journey to orbit with a pilot on board. One of these piloted trips was sponsored by NASA, and they have also sent seven extended-duration crews to the space station. Additionally, SpaceX has launched two commercial flights to the ISS for Axiom, as well as one mission in Earth’s orbit that was funded by another organization.
Jared Isaacman, a technology entrepreneur.