Ax-3 Astronauts Undock From Space Station in SpaceX Dragon for Earth Return

Thrusters Fire on SpaceX Dragon Cargo Spacecraft

Thrusters on the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft fire automatically while adjusting the vehicle’s slow, methodical approach toward the International Space Station for a docking to the Harmony module’s forward port. Credit: NASA

Ax-3 mission concludes as SpaceX Dragon heads home with astronauts and science aboard, aiming for a Florida coast return.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft undocked from the space-facing port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 9:20 a.m. EST over the Pacific Ocean, west of Ecuador, to complete the third all-private astronaut mission to the orbiting laboratory, Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3).

Dragon is slowly maneuvering away from the orbital laboratory into an orbital track that will return the astronaut crew and its cargo safely to Earth, targeting a splashdown off the coast of Daytona, Florida, at approximately 8:30 a.m. EST Friday, February 9.

SpaceX Dragon Freedom Spacecraft Backs Away From Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon Freedom spacecraft (left) backs away from the space station carrying four Axiom Mission 3 astronauts. The SpaceX Dragon Endurance (right) is pictured docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing port. Credit: NASA TV

Ax-3 astronauts Michael López-Alegría, Walter Villadei, Marcus Wandt, and Alper Gezeravci will complete 18 days aboard the orbiting laboratory at the conclusion of their mission. The SpaceX Dragon will return to Earth with more than 550 pounds of science and supplies, including NASA experiments and hardware.

Joint operations with the Axiom and SpaceX mission teams end and NASA coverage of the mission concludes when the spacecraft exits the area of the space station, approximately 30 minutes after undocking.

Axiom Space leads independent mission operations for Ax-3 and will resume coverage of Dragon’s re-entry and splashdown.

Axiom Mission 3 Crew Members Seated Inside the SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Preparing for Undocking

The Axiom Mission 3 crew members are seated inside the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft preparing for their undocking from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) marked the third all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), orchestrated by SpaceX and Axiom Space. The mission featured a crew of four: Michael López-Alegría, Walter Villadei, Marcus Wandt, and Alper Gezeravci, who spent 18 days in orbit conducting scientific research and experiments.

Ax-3 not only demonstrated the expanding capabilities of private space exploration but also contributed valuable scientific data to Earth-based researchers, showcasing the collaborative potential between governmental and private entities in the realm of space travel and research.

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