Axiom set for third mission to ISS, carrying European space hopes | Space

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A four-member, all-European crew are poised to blast off in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule fixed to the top of a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:49 pm local time (2111 GMT) on Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

An all-European crew including Turkey’s first astronaut are set to launch for the International Space Station on Thursday with Axiom Space, as countries increasingly look to the private sector to fulfill their final frontier ambitions.

With the weather looking favorable, a SpaceX Crew Dragon fixed to the top of a Falcon 9 rocket should blast off Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:49 pm local time (2149 GMT), and reach its destination early Saturday.

Dubbed Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3), it is the company’s third launch to the space laboratory and the first where all three of the paid seats were bought by national agencies, rather than wealthy individuals.

“It marks a new era of opportunity for countries to join the international space community” and “shifts the paradigm of how space agencies access LEO (low Earth orbit), for exploration and research in microgravity,” Axiom Space’s chief of mission integration and operations Derek Hassmann said.

Turkish pilot and air force colonel Alper Gezeravci is joined by Marcus Wandt from Sweden, who will be the second Swede in space, and Walter Villadei, an Italian air force colonel who has previously flown to the edge of space on a Virgin Galactic space plane.

They are led by Axiom’s Chief Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, a Spanish and US citizen and former NASA astronaut.

The exact costs haven’t been disclosed, but in 2018 when the company first announced the program, which involves chartering SpaceX hardware and paying NASA for services, it set a price tag of $55 million per seat.

More recently, Hungary was reported by to be…

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