SpaceX Ready to Launch Crew-3 Mission for NASA

SpaceX is ready to launch the fourth crewed mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew mission, Crew-3. The crew will include NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.

Crew-3 will be the first crewed NASA mission to be commanded by a first-time astronaut since 1981, when astronaut Joe Engle commanded the Space Shuttle’s STS-2 mission. Raja Chari will command Crew-3.

Inspiration4 was commanded by another rookie, Jared Isaacman, but that was an all-civilian mission not organized by NASA. It was the first of several expected civilian flights organized by private organizations and individuals. These include Axiom Space, which is working with NASA to develop new inflatable modules for the International Space Station and will eventually build its own space station, and Yusaku Maezawa’s dearMoon mission, which will fly an all-civilian crew of mostly artists in a trip around the Moon.

Thomas Marshburn is making his third spaceflight with Crew-3, during which he will serve as the Crew Dragon’s Pilot, having previously flown on STS‐127 in July 2009 and the International Space Station’s Expedition 34/35 increment from December 2012 to May 2013. Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer are both first-time astronauts, serving as Mission Specialists on Crew-3.

SpaceX has already flown four crewed missions with the Crew Dragon spacecraft model, including the Inspiration4 mission. It previously launched the Demo-2, Crew-1, and Crew-2 missions for NASA. The Crew-2 Crew Dragon, Endeavour, is still docked to the International Space Station.

The Crew Dragon for the Crew-3 mission will be flying for the first time. It will reuse a Falcon 9 booster that was previously used to launch CRS-22, a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station with an upgraded solar array and valuable life science experiments on board, in June. The CRS-22 Cargo Dragon recently undocked from the International Space Station to return to Earth and make room for Crew-3.

This Crew Dragon doesn’t have a name yet, though the European Space Agency has already dubbed Matthias Maurer’s flight “Cosmic Kiss” as part of its tradition of naming individual astronauts’ missions. The previously flown Crew Dragons have been named Endeavour and Resilience by the first crews to fly on each respective spacecraft.

The Crew-3 Crew Dragon is currently undergoing final assembly and testing, accounting for issues experienced by the Inspiration4 crew, which apparently included a faulty toilet fan and a malfunctioning backup temperature sensor on one of the Draco thruster. The Crew-3 astronauts have also gone into pre-mission quarantine to avoid illness, a NASA tradition that dates back to the 1960s and reports of astronauts suffering vicious colds during at least one Apollo mission, which was reportedly one factor that negatively impacted crew performance.

Crew-3 is slated to launch on October 30 at 2:43 am EDT. The crew will spend six months on the International Space Station as part of a seven-person crew once they dock with its Harmony module. Their mission will briefly overlap with Crew-2, which will depart shortly after a handover period that will transition the station crew from Expedition 66 to Expedition 67.