SpaceX Dragon capsule arrives at pad for Ax-3 astronaut launch (photos)

a white spacex dragon capsule is seen inside a large hangar near a door that opens onto darkness.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule that will fly Axiom Space's Ax-3 mission to the International Space Station is seen arriving at the hangar at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A ahead of a planned Jan. 17, 2024 launch. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Update for Jan. 17: SpaceX announced that the launch of Axiom Space's Ax-3 mission to the International Space Station has been delayed by a day, to 4:49 p.m. EST (2149 GMT) on Thursday (Jan. 18). Watch it live here at; coverage will begin at 2:30 p.m. EST (1845 GMT) on Jan. 18.

SpaceX continues to gear up for its next astronaut mission.

That flight, known as Ax-3, is scheduled to launch from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 17, sending four people to the International Space Station (ISS).  

The Dragon capsule that will carry those folks to the orbiting lab and back has now arrived at Pad 39A's hangar, SpaceX announced today (Jan. 12) in a post on X that featured photos of the spacecraft in its new surroundings.

Related: Axiom Space names Ax-3 astronaut crew for SpaceX mission to ISS

Another shot of the Ax-3 Dragon arriving at the Pad 39A hangar. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Ax-3 is the third mission to the ISS organized by Houston company Axiom Space. Like its two predecessors, which launched in April 2022 and May 2023, Ax-3 will employ SpaceX hardware — the Falcon 9 rocket as well as the Dragon capsule.

Ax-3's crew consists of former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría; Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei, who also flew to suborbital space with Virgin Galactic in June 2023; Marcus Wandt of the European Space Agency; and Alper Gezeravcı, who will become the first citizen of Turkey to reach space. 

López-Alegría, who now works for Axiom, will command the mission. (NASA requires that every private crewed mission to the ISS be led by a former agency astronaut.) He's a dual Spanish-American citizen, giving Ax-3 an unprecedented international flavor.

"The Ax-3 mission will be transformational, as it fosters partnerships outside the construct of the ISS, and positions European nations as pioneers of the emerging commercial space industry," López-Alegría said in an Axiom statement in September 2023, when the crewmembers were announced.

Ax-3 will be the 12th astronaut mission for SpaceX. In addition to the two Axiom flights, Elon Musk's company has launched eight crewed missions for NASA (including the Demo-2 test flight in 2020) and the private Inspiration4 effort. All of these missions visited the ISS except Inspiration4, on which Dragon flew freely in Earth orbit.

One SpaceX mission remains at the orbiting lab — the four-person Crew-7, which launched last August and is scheduled to return to Earth next month.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.