After undocking from the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, Feb. 7, the Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) crew safely splashed down off the coast of Florida aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at 8:30 a.m. ET on Feb. 9, 2024. The Ax-3 crew’s return officially concludes the first all-European commercial astronaut mission and Axiom Space’s third crewed mission to the ISS.
The Ax-3 crewmembers include Commander Michael López-Alegría of the U.S. and Spain, Pilot Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force, and Mission Specialists Alper Gezeravcı of Türkiye and Marcus Wandt of Sweden and the European Space Agency (ESA).
“The successful return of our Ax-3 astronauts signifies more than just the completion of a human spaceflight mission; it marks a pivotal moment in commercial space exploration and significant milestone for Europe’s pursuits in low-Earth orbit,” said Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini. “Axiom Space’s first three commercial missions to the ISS are a testament to international advancement in space, with diverse crews representing eight nations, as well as — for the first time on Ax-3 — the European Space Agency. The success of these missions is an important step along our journey toward Axiom Station, underscoring our continuous efforts to expand access to low-Earth orbit.”
During their 18-day mission docked to the ISS, the Ax-3 crew lived and worked aboard the orbiting laboratory conducting more than 30 different experiments and more than 50 outreach engagements. Human research data collected on the ground before and after the mission, as well as in flight, will improve understanding of human physiology on Earth and in microgravity.
Ax-3 demonstrates that the European community of space-faring nations are pioneers in the burgeoning commercial space industry. The crew and the governments they represent are taking bold steps into a new era of leadership in low-Earth orbit.
Ax-3 celebrates many firsts: it was the first commercial spaceflight mission comprised of government and ESA-sponsored national astronauts; Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravcı became the first-ever Turkish astronaut; and Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt was the first ESA project astronaut to fly on a commercial space mission.
Ax-3 is the third in a series of proposed Axiom Space human spaceflight missions, marking a critical milestone toward the realization of Axiom Station — the world’s first commercial space station.
Axiom Space is playing an important role in offering human spaceflight opportunities to the larger international community. These missions are enabling governments, individuals, researchers, academic institutions, and organizations across the world to conduct comprehensive scientific research, technology demonstrations, and outreach engagements in the unique environment of microgravity.
Axiom Space’s first three missions to the ISS included crewmembers from the U.S., Spain, Israel, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Türkiye, and Sweden, with the support of ESA. In addition, last year, Axiom Space signed an MOU with ESA and the UK Space Agency to explore future human spaceflight opportunities.
Axiom Space plans to launch its fourth mission, Axiom Mission 4 (Ax-4), to the ISS no earlier than October 2024 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) is the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the International Space Station. Axiom Mission 3 redefines the pathway to low-Earth orbit for nations around the globe. 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. The Ax-3 mission will be the first human space mission with a Turkish astronaut and also the first commercial astronaut mission to include a European Space Agency (ESA) sponsored national astronaut.
Michael López-Alegría was born in Madrid, Spain and immigrated to the U.S. as a young boy with his family. He has over 40 years of aviation and space experience with the U.S. Navy and NASA in a variety of roles, including Naval Aviator, engineering test pilot, NASA astronaut, and commander of the International Space Station (ISS). López-Alegría is currently the chief astronaut for Axiom Space and commanded the crew of Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1), the first fully private mission to the ISS in human history. He is a five-time astronaut, having flown on Ax-1, space shuttle missions STS-73, STS-92, and STS- 113, and Soyuz TMA-9 to and from the ISS, where he served as commander of Expedition 14. He holds NASA records for the most extravehicular activities (EVA) or “space walks” (10) and cumulative EVA time (67 hours, 40 minutes). He was elected to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame as a 2020 inductee.
López-Alegría is the former president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, where he was a spokesman, thought leader and advocate with the U.S. Congress and pertinent executive agencies for favorable public policy on behalf of the commercial spaceflight industry. He has served on several advisory boards and committees of public and private organizations, including the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council and the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee to the FAA. López-Alegría is the chairman of ASTM International Committee on Commercial Spaceflight and the former president of the Association of Space Explorers USA, a professional and educational organization of current and former astronauts. López-Alegría is honored to lead his second commercial mission with Axiom Space as commander of Ax-3.
Born April 1974 in Rome, Italy, Walter Villadei is a colonel in the Italian Air Force (ItAF) and is currently the head of ItAF’s representative office in the U.S., overseeing commercial spaceflight initiatives. He has extensive experience in Italian space programs, including multiple assignments as a member of the scientific committee of the Italian Space Agency and national representative for the European Commission for the Space Surveillance and Tracking Program. Villadei has served as a flight engineer on the C-130J and G-222, and flew on the MB339 and Eurofighter Typhoon (EFA). The EFA-2000 is a European multinational twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter jet designed for multiple combat roles, including air-to-air combat, air support, aerial bombing, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and suppression of air defenses. The MB-339 is a military jet trainer and light attack aircraft. Villadei has extensive experience in land, sea, and winter survival training and has participated in multiple military operational activities abroad, including Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), UNMEE (UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea), and Antica Babilonia (Iraq). He also participated in multiple flight training exercises, such as “Red Flag,” a multinational opportunity for allied air forces to practice and refine piloting skills for real combat situations. In 2011, Villadei received cosmonaut training in Star City, Russia as a Soyuz flight engineer and in advanced Orlan and International Space Station (ISS) Russian segment systems.
In 2014 and 2018, he completed pre-assignment and multiple analog training, which included centrifuge, hypoxia chamber, and survival training. In 2021, Villadei was selected to fly on Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered flight, Unity 23, the first commercial, human-tended research mission for the company. The mission Vitute-1 was carried out in June 2023, and the crew conducted 12 experiments aboard Unity 23, to include materials, technology, and human physiology research. Villadei served as mission lead and tended to the rack-mounted payloads during the weightless portion of the flight while wearing a smart suit to measure his physiological responses. Villadei has a Master's Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Naples and a specialization in astronautical engineering from the University of Rome. When not working, Villadei enjoys spending time at home in Rome with his wife and three daughters. His personal hobbies include swimming and running. In addition, he enjoys scuba diving/advanced PADI and has an Ultralight private license. He is fluent in reading, writing, and speaking in English and his native Italian, along with extensive experience speaking Russian. With a love for space, stars, aviation, and science combined with Russian cosmonaut and Italian Air Force training, Villadei is honored to have been chosen as the pilot for Axiom Space’s third commercial astronaut mission to the ISS, Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3).
Born December 1979 in Silifke, Türkiye, Gezeravcı attended the Air Force Academy in Istanbul, Türkiye, where he completed a Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering. In addition, he completed a master's degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. As a fighter pilot with the Turkish Air Force, Gezeravcı has 15 years of flying experience on multiple aircrafts including the T-41, SF-260, T-37, T-38, F-5, KC-135 and F-16 . In addition, he served as a captain with the Turkish Airlines for seven years. Gezeravcı has also served as a flight leader, flight safety officer, and commercial airlines captain. Gezeravcı was most recently assigned to the 10th Base Command Unit in Adana, Türkiye, as the Standardization Squadron Academic Wing Commander. He was responsible for standardization and evaluation of the squadron, organizing all training documents according to Air Force standards, giving exams to all of the F-16 and KC-135R pilots before check rides, and inspecting squadron documentation standards. As a sports enthusiast, Gezeravcı enjoys scuba diving, sailing, camping, rafting, and has extensive experience in mountain hiking and horseback riding. Through his military training, he has participated in multiple survival training courses and military deployments. Gezeravcı is honored and excited for the opportunity to be a part of the historic Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) as the first Turkish astronaut to go to space. Gezeravcı will serve as a mission specialist for Ax-3.
Born 1980 in Sweden, Marcus Wandt has over 20 years of aviation experience with the Swedish Air Force as a fighter pilot, squadron commander, wing commander, and chief test pilot. Previously a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut reserve, Wandt is now an ESA project astronaut for the duration of his mission duties. Between 2003 and 2014, Wandt was active as a fighter pilot with the Swedish Air Force, including international exercises, operational testing, and operational deployment. In 2006, Wandt founded and became the CEO of Intuitech AB focusing on tactical training of fighter pilots. He later became an experimental test pilot at SAAB Aeronautics in Linköping, Sweden, and worked his way up to chief test pilot and head of flight operations. In November 2022, Wandt was selected as a member of the ESA astronaut reserve. He graduated from the Sundsta-Älvkullen High School in 1999. The same year, he became a patrol leader and airborne ranger with the Swedish Army Airborne Ranger School. In 2000, he began his studies at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, focusing on electronics and artificial intelligence, communication technology, and basic space engineering. He received his master's degree in electrical engineering in 2007.
Wandt joined the Karlberg Military Academy in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2003, where he received leadership training and graduated as an officer from the military officer program in 2005. In 2004, Wandt joined the Swedish Air Force Flying Training School to attend basic flying training, which he completed in 2005, followed by basic fighter training in 2006. Wandt was trained to 4-ship lead with the Swedish Air Force Air Operations Commander School and became captain at the Halmstad Military Academy. Wandt is currently a lieutenant colonel in the Swedish Air Force. From 2013 to 2014, Wandt attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, USA, graduating as number one of his class as an experimental test pilot. Wandt also became a squadron commander and wing commander flying with the Swedish Air Force Operations Commander School. Throughout his academic and professional career, Wandt received various honors and awards for his outstanding performance as a student and pilot. He speaks Swedish and English. Wandt will be the second ESA astronaut of Swedish nationality to ever go to the International Space Station during Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3). He will serve as a mission specialist during Ax-3.
Boryung Corporation, a pioneer in innovative solutions based in South Korea, and Axiom Space, a leader in commercial human spaceflight and architect of the world’s first commercial space station, are proud to announce the formation of a joint venture aiming to leverage the unique strengths of both companies to advance the commercialization of low-Earth orbit (LEO) and push the boundaries of space exploration.
Through the JV, Boryung and Axiom Space will jointly explore business opportunities related to the future Axiom Station. The newly established JV will conduct all projects that Axiom Space will pursue in collaboration with South Korean companies and government and will have exclusive domestic rights for all operations utilizing Axiom Space’s technology and space station infrastructure in LEO.
The joint venture, named BRAX Space Corporation, will be headquartered in South Korea. The collaboration will focus on various businesses, including research and development, new initiatives in the space industry, and joint production efforts.
Jay Kim, Chairman & CEO of Boryung Corporation, expressed enthusiasm about the partnership, saying, "This joint venture with Axiom Space marks a significant milestone in our commitment to innovation and excellence. We are excited to combine our expertise with Axiom's to create unprecedented opportunities in the space industry throughout Korea."
Jack Lim, Head of New Portfolio Investments (NPI) Group in Boryung, has been appointed as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BRAX. Lim has been overseeing Boryung's space business, including its investment in Axiom Space. In addition, Ryan Lee has been appointed as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Lee joined Boryung in 2023 and leads the Strategic Operations Group, which is responsible for investment review, finance, accounting, and legal affairs.
"The launch of BRAX is significant in that it opens the way for Korea to utilize the space station for space exploration, scientific research, and commercial purposes," said Lim. "As access to low-Earth orbit expands, the demand to utilize space platforms for research and experimentation will continue to grow."
BRAX Space Corporation will initiate its operations by focusing on several key areas, including research and experimentation platform services on Axiom Station, Korean human spaceflight projects, and joint development of space station modules.
"We have established a foothold to promote projects exclusively in South Korea with Axiom Space, which has the strongest competitiveness in the private sector in terms of LEO, the gateway to the Moon and Mars," Kim said. "Beyond our financial investment in Axiom Space, we will continue to develop our relationship as close strategic partners.”
Michael Suffredini, CEO of Axiom Space, added, “Boryung has become a vital partner over the years and is quickly asserting leadership within the space industry in Korea by promoting innovation, advancing research, and unlocking the potential for large-scale, on-orbit manufacturing. We are pleased to join Boryung in the venture to shape the future of LEO for their nation.”
About Boryung Corporation:
Boryung is a healthcare investment company founded in 1957 and headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. Following the company’s mission to become an indispensable contributor to human health, the company has expanded their business portfolio to the space healthcare industry. Recognizing space as a new realm for growth, Boryung acknowledges the increasing number of individuals anticipated to embark on prolonged space missions, highlighting the importance of ensuring human survival in the hostile space environment. Hence, the company believes there will be substantial opportunities to foster new technologies and meet the emerging needs in this field.
About Axiom Space:
Axiom Space is building for beyond, guided by the vision of a thriving home in space that benefits every human, everywhere. The leading provider of human spaceflight services and developer of human-rated space infrastructure, Axiom Space operates end-to-end missions to the International Space Station today while developing its successor, Axiom Station – the world’s first commercial space station in low-Earth orbit, which will sustain human growth off the planet and bring untold benefits back home.
Three NASA-funded commercial space station partners are on track for the design and development of their orbital destinations and the transition of agency’s low Earth orbit needs from the International Space Station.
“We are ending the year on a high note with multiple important milestones being completed by our partners,” said Angela Hart, manager of the Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development Program at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Over the past few months, we have been able to dig into the details of the specific hardware and processes of these stations and are moving forward to multiple comprehensive design reviews next year.”
Axiom Space, which holds a firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with NASA, is on schedule to launch and attach its first module, named Axiom Hab One, to the International Space Station in 2026. A total of four modules are planned for the Axiom Commercial Segment attached to the station. After the space station’s retirement, the Axiom Commercial Segment will separate and become a free-flying commercial destination named Axiom Station. The hatches of the Axiom Hab One module are fabricated and prepared to undergo pressure testing to ensure a strong enough seal to withstand the vacuum of space. Manufacturing of the Axiom Hab One module is underway, and the critical design review will occur in 2024. During this review, NASA will assess the maturity of the Axiom Space design and provide feedback necessary to ensure safe operations when it is attached to the International Space Station.
Blue Origin, which NASA awarded a Space Act Agreement in 2021 to develop a free-flying space station named Orbital Reef, recently completed tests for a window system and a structural demonstration. For the structural test, Blue Origin used a prototype of their space station’s main module, called the Core, to demonstrate the manufacturing processes required to build the final pressurized modules of the station. The test supports validation of the structural models and analytical tools for the Core’s structural design. The International Space Station’s cupola, a room with seven windows overlooking the Earth, is the cornerstone of crewed missions for both research and astronaut morale. Orbital Reef will incorporate multiple windows on its Core, with each window spanning about twice the size of a car windshield. For the window test, Blue Origin evaluated the window integration structure design concept and its performance against the pressures and temperatures the windows will be exposed to while in orbit.
NASA also awarded Starlab, a station being developed by Voyager Space’s Exploration Segment, a Space Act Agreement in 2021. Voyager Space recently announced a partnership with Airbus and Northrop Grumman. Voyager’s Exploration Segment, which includes Nanoracks, recently completed three milestones: a system definition review and the initiation of two pairs of milestones for an optical link demonstration and alternative urine processor demonstration. Free-space optical, also called laser communications, allows for higher data rates and more energy-efficient communications than radio frequency communication systems. A major goal of the optical communication demonstration is to conduct testing from the International Space Station to the ground to establish the capabilities needed for Starlab. This initial milestone, within the optical link demonstration milestone pair scope, validated the Starlab testing plan. The optical link is planning to be tested next on the International Space Station.
As on the International Space Station, Starlab will recover purified water from urine to reduce water needed to resupply the station. Starlab will test an alternative urine processor under realistic operating conditions to validate functional performance and reduce implementation risk. Similar to the optical link demonstration, the processor demonstration is divided into a pair of milestones, with this initial completed milestone validating the testing plan. Starlab’s third recently completed milestone was a system definition review. Teams examined how NASA’s potential commercial space station requirements aligned to the functional areas of the Starlab system to define the space station architecture. The completion of this milestone initiated preparations for the next step in the comprehensive review process, the preliminary design review.
NASA is working closely with commercial companies to develop new space stations capable of providing services to NASA and others, which will ensure that the U.S. maintains a continuous human presence in low Earth orbit and provides direct benefits for people on Earth. Leading into NASA’s future procurement for commercial low Earth orbit services, the agency recently released its third request for information.
The Exploration Company, a leading European
commercial space company which is developing, manufacturing, and operating a reusable space
capsule called ‘Nyx’, and Axiom Space, architect of Axiom Station, the world’s first commercial space
station, announced today that they have signed a cargo services pre-booking agreement. It is the first
time a European space capsule has been chosen by a commercial space company to develop cargo
transportation services from Earth to Space and back to Earth, cementing the position of the rapidly
growing private European New Space industry.
As private and public organizations across the globe ramp up the development of their space
capabilities, the demand for affordable, and sustainable space transportation is increasing to fuel an
economy in low-Earth orbit and further space exploration logistics needs. In this market, the
Exploration Company’s reusable space capsule ‘Nyx’ fosters opportunities to make space logistics
significantly more accessible, contributing toward European leadership in this vital area of space
exploration. The capsule’s engines fueled by “green” propellants also demonstrates the company’s
intention to boost the industry with more sustainable innovation.
Hélène Huby, CEO and co-founder of The ExploraDon Company: “We could not be prouder to be the
first European space capsule manufacturer and operator to enter into an agreement for cargo services
with a future space station operator. We are thankful for the trust that Axiom Space has in our
technology, and we cannot wait to fly Nyx to their space sta3on and beyond. Europe and the US have
been cooperating for decades in space exploration. It is wonderful that private entities, supported by
their respective governments, continue this cooperation which is so strategic for our democracies. This
agreement also demonstrates to political leaders that space exploration logistics will be a significant
business, and that, provided we invest now, Europe can be one of the global leaders of the building of
the new space worlds.”
Matt Ondler, Chief Technology Officer at Axiom Space: “Axiom Space is pleased to partner with The
Exploration Company. We believe this effort symbolizes what can be achieved when the U.S. and
Europe work together to continue research in microgravity and the development of breakthrough
innovations to build a global space economy in low-Earth orbit...”
Daniel Neuenschwander, Director of Human & Robotic Exploration at the European Space Agency
(ESA): “It’s great to see new, different space actors developing in Europe. Furthermore, it is another
example of how a more diverse and competitive landscape is developing in Low Earth Orbit,
strengthening the trans-Atlantic cooperation.“
About The Exploration Company
The Exploration Company’s mission is to democra3ze space exploration, making it affordable,
sustainable and cooperative. To realize this mission, The Explora3on Company develops, manufactures
and operates ‘Nyx’, a modular and reusable orbital vehicle that can eventually be refueled in orbit and
uses green propellants. Nyx provides a wide scope of missions ranging from resupplying space stations
around the Earth and the Moon, free flying around the Earth or landing in the Moon – and safely coming
back to Earth. Nyx starts with flying cargo and has the potential to carry humans.
About Axiom Space
Axiom Space is building for beyond, guided by the vision of a thriving home in space that benefits every
human, everywhere. The leading provider of human spaceflight services and developer of human-rated
space infrastructure, Axiom Space operates end-to-end missions to the International Space Station
today while developing its successor, Axiom Station – the world’s first commercial space station in lowEarth orbit, which will sustain human growth off the planet and bring untold benefits back home.