U.S. launches another commercial astronaut mission to space station

(Xinhua) 09:02, January 19, 2024

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- SpaceX and Axiom Space launched the third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, as part of NASA's efforts to open access to space.

The mission, codenamed Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3), is the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the ISS, according to NASA.

The Dragon spacecraft carrying the four-member crew blasted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at about 4:49 p.m. Eastern Time.

Later, SpaceX confirmed the main engine cutoff and stage separation of its Falcon 9 rocket. The first stage booster of the rocket has landed at SpaceX's Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The four-member crew are commander Michael López-Alegría of the United States and Spain, pilot Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force, and the two mission specialists -- Alper Gezeravci of Türkiye and European Space Agency project astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden.

The crew is now in orbit and on their way to the ISS, according to Axiom Space's live broadcast.

Once docked to the ISS, the Ax-3 astronauts will spend 14 days aboard the orbiting laboratory for implementing a full mission comprised of microgravity research, technology demonstrations, and outreach engagements.

This mission marks a new era of opportunity for countries to join the international space community and access low-Earth orbit to advance exploration and research in microgravity, said Axiom Space.

Data collected on ground before and after the mission as well as in flight will impact understanding of human physiology on Earth and on orbit, as well as advance scientific understanding, harness opportunities for industrial advancements, and develop technologies for humanity's progress, according to Axiom Space. 

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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