SpaceX rolls rocket to pad for Ax-3 astronaut launch (photos)

a black and white spacex falcon 9 rocket stands on its launch pad against a twilight sky.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will fly the Ax-3 private astronaut mission are seen at Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center ahead of their planned Jan. 17, 2024 launch. (Image credit: SpaceX)

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's next astronaut-launching rocket has made it to the pad.

SpaceX has rolled out the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will send the private Ax-3 astronaut mission toward the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday (Jan. 17), the company announced via X today (Jan. 16).

That liftoff, from historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is scheduled to take place Wednesday at 5:11 p.m. EST (2211 GMT). You can watch it live here at, courtesy of NASA.  

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

Closeup of the Ax-3 Dragon capsule on the pad. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Ax-3 — the third crewed mission organized by Houston company Axiom Space — will send four people to the ISS for a roughly two-week stay.

Those crewmembers are former NASA astronaut and current Axiom employee Michael López-Alegría, who will command the mission; Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei; European Space Agency astronaut Marcus Wandt, who's from Sweden; and Alper Gezeravcı, who will become the first Turkish citizen to reach the final frontier. 

López-Alegría is a citizen of both the U.S. and Spain. So Ax-3 is a very international affair, as he pointed out.

"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 last September.

Axiom Space's other two missions to the ISS launched in April 2022 and May 2023, respectively. López-Alegría commanded the first one, and record-setting former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson led the second. (NASA requires that private crewed missions to the orbiting lab be commanded by a former agency astronaut.)

Axiom Space isn't just about organizing crewed flights to the ISS. A few years from now, the company plans to start launching its own modules to the orbiting lab. This hardware will eventually detach, forming a free-flying private space station in low Earth orbit.

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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.