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SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission on schedule for October 31 launch

Crew-3; A white vehicle is held vertically upright with machinery while a half-lit orb is faintly seen in the background.
Falcon 9 and Endurance vertical on Launch Complex 39A beneath a third quarter moon. Image via SpaceX.

Here’s a treat: SpaceX-NASA Crew-3 launch

How do you plan to spend this year’s Halloween? Three NASA astronauts and one German astronaut will be dressed in spacesuits, not as costumes, but for a flight to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 31, 2021. The mission, called Crew-3, will mark the fourth operational flight for SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Program with NASA. It completed a static fire test – one of the final milestones ahead of launch – of its Falcon 9 rocket before dawn on October 28. Liftoff remains scheduled for 2:21 a.m. (06:21 UTC) from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

The Crew Dragon capsule, named Endurance, will spend 22 hours in orbit before arriving at the space station on Monday, November 1. Meanwhile, on Earth, the Falcon 9’s first stage is intended to land on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions shortly after a successful liftoff.

You can follow the mission’s countdown and launch online: live coverage of the launch will begin October 30 at 10:00 p.m. EDT (02:00 UTC October 31) on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and its mobile app (translate UTC to your time here). Coverage will be continuous through docking, hatch opening, and the welcoming ceremony on November 1.

The 2022 lunar calendars are here. Order yours before they’re gone!

Crew-3; A white vehicle is illuminated in the night while on a launch pad with white smoke trailing away from it.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the pad at Launch Complex 39A during a brief static fire test at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on October 28, 2021, ahead of the Crew-3 mission. Image via NASA.

Crew-3 is expected to be a milestone of sorts for SpaceX. Not only is it the fourth crewed flight of a Crew Dragon, but also the fifth human spaceflight for the company overall, dating back to the Demo-2 launch of May 2020. Moreover, Endurance is a brand new space capsule. But it will sit atop a veteran rocket that SpaceX previously used to launch cargo to the ISS in June.

A successful static fire test

Both Endurance and the Falcon 9 rolled out to the launch pad on October 27. Together, standing 215 feet (65 m) tall, they were lifted upright later that afternoon.

Teams worked overnight to prepare for the static fire test. They loaded it with super-chilled propellants: kerosene and liquid oxygen. The nine first-stage engines fired in the very early morning of October 28.

It generated 1.7 million pounds of thrust while secured firmly to the ground. And, following an assessment of its performance, engineers approved the space vehicle for Sunday’s launch. The static fire test comes on the heels of the flight readiness test, cleared on Monday, October 25, just before the crew’s arrival to KSC on October 26.

Crew-3, a party of four

The NASA astronauts forming the crew are Raja Chari (mission commander), Thomas Marshburn (pilot), and Kayla Barron (mission specialist). From the ESA is astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist. On Tuesday, all four arrived at KSC and started their final preparations, including a quick chat with reporters broadcasted from astronaut crew quarters.

Crew-3; Three men and one woman pose and smile while wearing blue spacesuits with no helmets.
The 4 astronauts of SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission smiling together ahead of their October 31, 2021 launch. They are (from left to right): ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, and NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron. Image via NASA.

The quartet will stay onboard the space station for at least six months. And all are rookies, except for Marshburn, who has two visits to the outpost under his belt.

He told Space.com:

For me, personally, I’m especially looking forward to flying with people that have not flown before and who I’ve never flown with before. And looking back on previous missions, it’s your human interactions with your crew-mates that become the most special.

The rest of the crew says they’re most looking forward to the day-to-day activities, including conducting research and important science investigations.

Marshburn continued:

It’s really special to be at the cutting edge of an event when we, with our eyes, see something that humans have never seen before.

Barron and Chari are two of NASA’s potential Artemis astronauts who could walk on the moon one day. When asked about which scientific investigations she’s most excited for, Barron said:

I’m really excited about all the things we’re doing to inform future exploration missions to the moon and, hopefully, eventually to Mars.

Halloween weekend

Up next is a full dress rehearsal for the crew. That dry run will include mission and weather briefings, as well as completely donning their spacesuits, entering the space capsule, and closing the hatch. It even included a simulated scrub in case of a last-minute turn of events. Essentially, the crew will get as close as they can to launch day procedures without actually launching.

As of this writing, forecasters predict an 80% chance of favorable conditions the morning of liftoff. There may be a slight chance of flight through precipitation; harsh weather beyond this remains unforeseen.

Bottom line: Three NASA astronauts and one German astronaut will embark on a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station on October 31, 2021. The mission, called Crew-3, will mark the fourth operational flight for SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Program with NASA. Liftoff remains scheduled for 2:21 a.m. (06:21 UTC) from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Via NASA

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