SpaceX, Axiom Space target launch with all-European crew on Thursday evening

Axiom Space and NASA are targeting Thursday at 4:49 p.m. ET for SpaceX to launch three European private astronauts and Axiom Space Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria to the ISS.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – SpaceX plans to launch Axiom Space's third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station on Thursday, after a 24-hour delay to allow time for additional checkouts on the Falcon 9 rocket. 

The Ax-3 mission will mark the first time an all-European commercial crew heads to the orbiting laboratory.

The commercial space company is targeting Thursday at 4:49 p.m. ET to launch three Axiom Space private astronauts and Axiom Space Commander Michael López-Alegría to the ISS. The four crew will launch on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket in a Crew Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center launchpad 39A. 

The mission was scheduled to launch Wednesday. However, SpaceX said it pushed the liftoff to Thursday to allow additional time "to complete pre-launch checkouts and data analysis on the vehicle." Axiom Space said that extra time included checkouts for the parachute system energy modulator. The Dragon spacecraft uses parachutes to make a soft ocean landing after the mission or in case of a launch abort. 


SpaceX said the Dragon spacecraft launching the Ax-3 crew previously launched NASA's Crew-4 astronaut mission and the second Axiom Space mission, Ax-2. After liftoff, the Falcon 9 first-stage booster will return to Earth, landing at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. 

The Ax-3 mission includes Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force (ItAF), Alper Gezeravci of Turkey, and Marcus Wandt of the European Space Agency (ESA). 

Valladei is a colonel in the ItAF and the head of ItAF's U.S. office of commercial spaceflight initiatives. A native of Rome, Villadei has undergone training in Russia as a Soyuz flight engineer, has been training with Axiom Space since 2021 and flew with Virgin Galactic on the company's first commercial suborbital flight in June 2023.  


Wandt is a former fighter pilot for the Swedish Air Force and a current ESA project astronaut. Wandt will be the second-ever Swedish astronaut to visit the International Space Station.  

Gezeravci will be the first Turkish astronaut to go into space. He was a fighter pilot for the Turkish Air Force and served as a captain with Turkish Airlines. He was most recently the Standardization Squadron Academic Wing Commander in Adana, Turkey.

It's tradition for the crew to have a zero-gravity indicator on the spacecraft. Usually, the crew selects a small toy or stuffed animal that can be seen floating about the spacecraft cabin after they reach zero gravity. 

For the Ax-3 mission, a teddy bear named GiGi will serve as the zero-gravity indicator. The Build-A-Bear will be dressed in an Axiom Space spacesuit. It will be GiGi's second spaceflight, having flown on the Ax-2 mission.

While in orbit, the crew will conduct 30 experiments in microgravity. The crew members will work on research from their home countries "of high national importance," according to Axiom Space. The Ax-3 experiment topics include biomedical research, sleep, bone health, space weather and cooking pasta in space. 

Rain, cloud cover forecast for Thursday

Forecasters with the U.S. Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron said there is an 80% chance for favorable launch weather for Thursday's launch window at 4:49 p.m. ET, with the primary concerns being cumulus cloud cover and rain. 

Ax-3 launch forecast for Thursday.
(FOX Weather)


After the most recent cold front dropped temperatures across Florida and the U.S., another low-pressure system will move up the East Coast with the old front still over Florida and a third cold front moving up the state. Launch weather officers said these systems could create instability around the Spaceport and increase clouds and the chances for showers.


After dipping into the high 40s on Wednesday, the FOX Forecast Center said temperatures on Florida's Space Coast will be around average in the low 70s by Thursday evening for the launch. 

Cape Canaveral hourly forecast for Thursday evening.
(FOX Weather)


Mission marks third ISS trip for Axiom Space

It's been a busy year for the commercial spaceflight company working to construct a private space station and developing spacesuits for NASA to be worn by the next astronauts to walk on the Moon

In March, the company revealed its prototype of the lunar spacesuits for NASA's Artemis III mission astronauts. Axiom Space completed its second mission in May, carrying four private astronauts to the ISS.

The Ax-3 mission will be the second with Axiom Space for López-Alegría, the company's chief astronaut, who was formerly a NASA astronaut. He was also the commander on the Axiom SpaceX's inaugural mission to the ISS in April 2022.