Axiom-3: Key facts about Wednesday's private astronaut launch from KSC to the ISS

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A highly experienced former NASA astronaut will command the first all-European private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, which is scheduled for liftoff during Wednesday rush hour.

The four Axiom-3 astronauts will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 5:11 p.m. EST Wednesday from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, marking Cape Canaveral's first crewed mission of the year.

The launch window is instantaneous. Should delays arise, a backup opportunity opens at 4:49 p.m. Thursday, SpaceX reported.

After launch, the Axiom-3 astronauts will ascend in a SpaceX Dragon capsule into low-Earth orbit, where they will dock with the ISS about 5:15 a.m. Friday to kick off a roughly 14-day stay.

The crew: commander Michael López-Alegría, a former NASA astronaut and dual American-Spanish citizen; mission specialist Alper Gezeravcı of Turkey; mission specialist Marcus Wandt of Sweden, a European Space Agency astronaut; and pilot Walter Villadei, an Italian Air Force colonel.

Axiom-3 mission fast facts

From left, Axiom-3 astronauts Walter Villadei, Marcus Wandt, Michael López-Alegría and Alper Gezeravcı.
From left, Axiom-3 astronauts Walter Villadei, Marcus Wandt, Michael López-Alegría and Alper Gezeravcı.

In terms of fast facts, Axiom-3 is:

  • The first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the ISS.

  • The first spaceflight with a Turkish astronaut.

  • The first commercial spaceflight with an ESA-sponsored astronaut.

"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," an Axiom Space fact sheet said.

Space Force: 95% 'go for launch' weather

The crew of Axiom-3, from left to right: ESA astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden, mission specialist; Axiom Space’s chief astronaut and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, commander; Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei, pilot; and Alper Gezeravci of Turkey, mission specialist.
The crew of Axiom-3, from left to right: ESA astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden, mission specialist; Axiom Space’s chief astronaut and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, commander; Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei, pilot; and Alper Gezeravci of Turkey, mission specialist.

In a forecast released Monday, the Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron pegged the odds of "go for launch" weather Wednesday at greater than 95%.

"An area of low pressure developing along this boundary later (Monday) will move out into the Atlantic on Tuesday, bringing a cold front through the region late in the day. Models are trending faster with the passage of this front, leading to lighter winds for the primary launch window late Wednesday afternoon," the squadron's forecast said.

"Conditions will be cool and dry, with a stratocumulus deck encroaching on the Spaceport as winds veer onshore. No significant weather launch weather concerns are expected," the forecast said.

Meet the Axiom-3 commander

Axiom-3 Commander Michael López-Alegría.
Axiom-3 Commander Michael López-Alegría.

Axiom-3 Commander Michael López-Alegría is no stranger to Cape Canaveral — he was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in November 2021. Following is his biography from that induction ceremony:

"Alegria logged more than 257 days in space and performed 10 spacewalks totaling 67 hours and 40 minutes of EVA. His missions include STS-73 Columbia, STS-92 Discovery, STS-113 Endeavour, and Expedition 14. He left NASA in March 2012 and currently serves the Vice President of Business Development for Axiom Space, and has been selected to command the crew of Ax-1, the first fully private orbital space mission in human history," the biography said.

That historic Axiom-1 mission launched under López-Alegría's command in April 2022 from KSC. Axiom-2, a subsequent private astronaut mission to the ISS, launched in May.

Turkey's first-ever astronaut

Alper Gezeravcı, Axiom-3 mission specialist, will become the first Turkish astronaut to go to space.
Alper Gezeravcı, Axiom-3 mission specialist, will become the first Turkish astronaut to go to space.

Alper Gezeravcı will become the first Turkish astronaut to go to space, serving as an Axiom-3 mission specialist.

In terms of experience, Gezeravcı earned a master's degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.

As a Turkish Air Force fighter pilot, Gezeravcı has amassed 15 years of flying experience on aircraft including the T-41, SF-260, T-37, T-38, F-5, KC-135 and F-16. He also flew as a Turkish Airlines captain for seven years.

For the latest launch schedule updates from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and NASA's Kennedy Space Center, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Rick Neale is a Space Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY (for more of his stories, click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or rneale@floridatoday.com. Twitter/X: @RickNeale1

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Axiom-3: Fast facts about Wednesday private European astronaut launch