HomeSpaceCrewed Rocket Launch and Sonic Boom Expected Tomorrow

Crewed Rocket Launch and Sonic Boom Expected Tomorrow

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(Image credit: Axiom Space)

Axiom Space’s third commercial astronaut mission, Ax-3, is set to be a historic event as the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission underscores a new era in space travel, where access to low-Earth orbit (LEO) is becoming increasingly commercialized and international.

The mission is scheduled for launch on January 17, 2024, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Ax-3 crew will travel aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, propelled by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The scheduled launch time is at 5:11 p.m. ET. Booster B1080 will make its fifth flight and landing. It will return to landing zone one about eight minutes after launch and produce a sonic boom as it announces its return.

Ax-3 boasts an all-European crew, led by Commander Michael López-Alegría of the U.S. and Spain. He is joined by Pilot Walter Villadei of the Italian Air Force, and Mission Specialists Alper Gezeravcı of Türkiye and Marcus Wandt of Sweden, representing the European Space Agency.

(Image credit: Axiom Space)

Once docked to the ISS, which is anticipated to occur around 5:15 a.m. ET on January 19, the Ax-3 astronauts plan to spend up to 14 days onboard. Their mission includes a comprehensive agenda of microgravity research, technology demonstrations, and outreach events. These activities are not just scientific endeavors but also aim to inspire and educate the public about space travel and research.

Here are highlights of some of the technology development investigations launching on the Ax-3 mission:

  • A project will study how effective various advanced materials are at withstanding radiation during spaceflight. The materials being tested in the radiation-shielding textiles investigation could be used for future space stations, spacecraft, and even spacesuits.
  • Ax-3 crew members will test the Smart Flight Suit 2. This innovative suit is certified by NASA to collect valuable medical data on astronauts, such as temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.
  • The crew will test a software upgrade to the Anomalous Long-Term Effects in Astronauts (ALTEA) radiation detector currently onboard the space station. This represents the first real-time radiation “risk meter” in a space habitat. The system could also be used on future exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

The Ax-3 mission represents a pivotal step towards Axiom Station, envisaged as the world’s first commercial space station. This mission reinforces the changing landscape of space exploration, where private enterprises and international collaboration are playing increasingly prominent roles.

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Axiom Space has emphasized public engagement and education in its mission, highlighted by its partnership with Build-A-Bear Workshop. A teddy bear named GiGi, dressed in a replica of Axiom Space’s next-generation spacesuit, will serve as the mission’s zero-gravity indicator and a symbol of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education outreach.

The mission will be broadcast live, with joint webcast coverage by NASA, SpaceX, and Axiom Space. This includes coverage of the launch, in-flight events from the Dragon spacecraft, docking, and the welcome ceremony aboard the ISS. The comprehensive coverage allows enthusiasts and the public to follow the mission closely.

(Image credit: Axiom Space)

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