NASA has chosen Axiom Space’s proposal yet again for the third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. The two parties have already signed a mission order, and they’re hoping to launch sometime in November 2023 and beyond from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A more specific date will be announced later, since it will depend on the timing of other flights to the ISS, as well as on in-orbit activity planning.
Before Axiom Mission 3 launches, Axiom Mission 2 will have to head to the space station first. It’s also a crew mission that’s operated by the company, and it’s expected to launch in the second quarter of 2023. As you can guess from its name, it’s not the company’s first astronaut mission to the orbiting lab: NASA also picked it for the first commercially operated crewed flight to the station. Axiom Mission 1 launched in April 2022 and was docked with the ISS for 15 days.
At the moment, Ax-3 is still in its very early stages. The private space company will still have to submit four proposed crew members and two back up crew to the agency for review, with the mission commander being a flown NASA astronaut. (Ax-2, for instance, was headed by retired NASA astronaut Peggy Annette Whitson.) Under the parties’ agreement, NASA may ask the commander to perform certain tasks or science experiments while onboard. Meanwhile, Axiom Space astronauts will be able to use NASA cargo and other in-orbit resources for daily use.
In addition to choosing Axiom Space for these private launches, NASA also picked the company to develop the moonwalking spacesuit for its Artemis program. The agency will unveil the suit today in an event, which will be livestreams on NASA’s website.