SpaceX Crew-3 astronaut launch for NASA: What you must know

The SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts stand on the transporter in entrance of the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 stack contained in the SpaceX horizontal processing facility at Kennedy Area Middle in Florida on Oct. 26, 2021.


Elon Musk’s area firm is about to launch the Crew-3 mission for NASA on Wednesday night, within the fifth SpaceX crewed mission prior to now eighteen months.

Crew-3 is about to liftoff from launchpad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Area Middle in Florida at 9:03 p.m. ET. After launching, the astronauts are scheduled to reach on the Worldwide Area Station on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET.

“Every little thing seems like we’re in place to go fly,” SpaceX vice chairman William Gerstenmaier instructed reporters throughout a pre-launch briefing.

The launch marks SpaceX’s third operational crew launch for NASA up to now, and the primary by the most recent addition to its fleet of Crew Dragon capsules, named “Endurance” by the Crew-3 astronauts. The Crew-3 mission will carry the variety of astronauts SpaceX has launched to 18.

NASA and SpaceX have delayed the Crew-3 launch a couple of instances since its earlier Oct. 30 goal, resulting from dangerous climate within the Atlantic Ocean, in addition to a minor medical challenge with one of many 4 crew members. The ocean must be calm within the route the rocket is launching, in case a mid-flight abort results in the capsule splashing down after liftoff. NASA declined to specify extra concerning the medical challenge, citing the astronauts’ private privateness, however stated that it was not an emergency and unrelated to the Covid-19 virus.

The astronauts from NASA and ESA

From left: European Area Company astronaut Matthias Maurer, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron.

Joel Kowsky / NASA

The Crew-3 mission will carry 4 astronauts, three American and one German: NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and European Area Company astronaut Matthias Maurer.

Chari, the spacecraft’s commander, was chosen as an astronaut by NASA in 2017. This will probably be his first spaceflight, with Chari additionally picked by NASA as certainly one of its astronauts eligible for future Artemis lunar missions later this decade. Chari is a U.S. Air Pressure colonel, with greater than 2,500 hours of flight time.

Marshburn, the Crew-3 pilot, was chosen as an astronaut by NASA in 2004. That is Marshburn’s third spaceflight, having flown beforehand on the Area Shuttle and Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Beforehand Marshburn was a NASA flight surgeon.

Barron is flying as a Crew-3 mission specialist, having been chosen by NASA in 2017. Like Chari, the launch is Barron’s first spaceflight – she graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2010, and holds a grasp’s diploma in nuclear engineering from the College of Cambridge.

Maurer, the most recent worldwide astronaut to fly with SpaceX, joined the European astronaut corps in 2015. This will probably be his first spaceflight as properly.

The spacecraft: Crew Dragon ‘Endurance’

The Crew Dragon spacecraft for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission arrives on the hangar at Kennedy Area Middle’s Launch Complicated 39A in Florida on Oct. 24, 2021.


SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon spacecraft and fine-tuned its Falcon 9 rocket underneath NASA’s Business Crew program, which supplied the corporate with $3.1 billion to develop the system and launch six operational missions.

Business Crew is a aggressive program, as NASA additionally awarded Boeing with $4.8 billion in contracts to develop its Starliner spacecraft — however that competing capsule stays in improvement resulting from an uncrewed flight check in December 2019 that skilled vital challenges.

Crew-3 represents the third of these six missions for SpaceX, with NASA now benefiting from the funding it made within the firm’s spacecraft improvement.

NASA emphasizes that, along with the U.S. having a approach to ship astronauts to area, SpaceX provides the company a cost-saving choice as properly. The company expects to pay $55 million per astronaut to fly with Crew Dragon, versus $86 million per astronaut to fly with the Russians. NASA final yr estimated that having two personal firms compete for contracts saved the company between $20 billion and $30 billion in improvement prices.

The corporate accomplished a full costume rehearsal for Crew-3 in October, with the quartet of astronauts working towards suiting up and driving out to the launchpad within the pair of Tesla Mannequin Xs that SpaceX makes use of for crew transportation.

Endurance is a brand new Crew Dragon capsule debuting for this mission. Beforehand, capsules “Resilience” and “Endeavour” have flown astronauts, and SpaceX expects so as to add a fourth Crew Dragon early subsequent yr.

Crew Dragon is an developed model of the corporate’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft. Simply as Cargo Dragon was the primary privately developed spacecraft to carry provides to the ISS, so Crew Dragon is the primary privately developed spacecraft to carry individuals.

Whereas SpaceX has flown a most up 4 individuals on every mission up to now, Crew Dragon is designed to hold as many as seven passengers to area at a time.

SpaceX not too long ago has had incidents with the bathroom onboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft, as a hose got here unglued in “Resilience” through the Inspiration4 mission – though the crew onboard didn’t discover the issue through the spaceflight – and the “Endeavour” capsule that returned the Crew-2 mission earlier this week had an analogous drawback. The corporate says it up to date the design of Endurance’s waste administration system previous to Crew-3’s launch, in an effort to right the issue.

Crew Dragon’s parachutes have been additionally some extent of concern, as one of many 4 essential parachutes throughout Crew-2’s return deployed extra slowly than the others. Gerstenmaier instructed reporters that regardless of the sluggish opening, the parachute carried out as anticipated – emphasizing that Crew Dragon can splashdown underneath three parachutes if wanted. NASA and SpaceX groups inspected the Crew-2 parachutes after recovering them for the water and checked out information from the flight, with Gerstenmaier saying that nothing was out of the atypical after the assessment.

The corporate plans to proceed to reuse its Crew Dragon capsules, having already performed so with the Crew-2 and Inspiration4 missions.

The rocket: Falcon 9

SpaceX briefly check fires its Falcon 9 rocket with Crew Dragon capsule Endurance on prime in preparation for the Crew-3 launch.

Joel Kowsky / NASA

Crew Dragon will launch on prime of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the booster (the massive, decrease part of the rocket) anticipated to land on the corporate’s autonomous barge within the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX carried out a static fireplace of the rocket on Oct. 28, throughout which its 9 engines have been fired for a couple of seconds whereas standing on the launchpad.

Falcon 9 has turn out to be the workhorse of SpaceX’s rising fleet. The rocket stands at almost 230 toes tall and is able to launching as a lot as 25 tons to low Earth orbit. The Falcon 9 sequence is certified to fly as much as 10 flights, and SpaceX continues to push the boundary of reusability with satellite tv for pc launches.

The launch plan

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the corporate’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen at sundown on the launch pad at Launch Complicated 39A as preparations proceed for the Crew-3 mission, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Area Middle in Florida.

Joel Kowsky / NASA

4 hours earlier than liftoff, the astronauts will go well with up. A few half an hour later, the crew will stroll out to their Mannequin X rides, full with NASA logos, which is able to drive from the astronaut quarters out to the launchpad.

With 2½ hours to go, the astronauts will strap into their seats in Crew Dragon and start checking that every one programs are good to go. Then, with slightly below two hours till launch, the hatch to the spacecraft will probably be closed. 

SpaceX will start loading the rocket with gasoline 35 minutes earlier than launch, which is able to provoke a last sequence of processes and checks.

A couple of minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9′s booster stage will return and try to land on the corporate’s barge stationed within the Atlantic Ocean.

If something have been to go flawed within the final half hour earlier than the launch and even through the launch, Crew Dragon will abort and fireplace its emergency escape system. The corporate examined that system with nobody contained in the spacecraft. In that check, SpaceX triggered the system throughout probably the most intense a part of the launch to point out that it may very well be performed at any time.

After arriving on the ISS, Crew-3 will carry out a full length mission, spending about six months onboard.

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