CAPE CANAVERAL (Fla.) -- SpaceX will launch a crew with four astronauts Wednesday night (Nov. 10) after a series of delays. This is SpaceX's third crewed operational flight for NASA. You can view the action online.
Crew-3 is the SpaceX mission. It will launch from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 9:03 PM EST (0203 GMT on November 9). If the weather cooperates, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Crew Dragon capsule and four astronauts towards the International Space Station (ISS).
The launch can be viewed live on Space.com and here, thanks to NASA. Or, you can directly contact the space agency. The coverage begins Wednesday at 4:45 PM EST (2145 GMT).
Live updates: SpaceX's Crew-3 mission to the astronauts
SpaceX astronauts pose on the gantry of their Crew Dragon Endurance during a launch practice. From left: ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn (Raja Chari), Kayla Barron (Standing) SpaceX image credit
Crew-3 is comprised of three NASA astronauts as well as one international spaceflyer. Raja Chari of NASA is the commander. Fellow NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron will serve as pilots and mission specialists. ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer will also be aboard, becoming the 600th person to reach space. Crew-3 will be the first spaceflight of Chari, Barron, and Maurer, and the third for Marshburn.
Holly Ridings (chief flight director, Flight Operations Directorate, NASA's Johnson Space Center), stated last month that "you don't see many novice commanders."
Ridings said, "It's just a testament of how an amazing person he ist; he's incredibly, incredibly capable, like all of them are." He's done an exceptional job, in particular."
After a landing, a launch
According to forecasters, the weather on Florida's Space Coast is expected to be favorable on launch day. The Cape and downrange are likely to have favorable conditions for liftoff with a 80% chance. NASA will attempt to liftoff the mission 24 hours later, on Wednesday (Nov. 11).
Following their six-month mission, four astronauts returned to Earth. The Crew-3 launch follows. Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, Crew-2 astronauts from NASA, and Thomas Pesquet of European Space Agency (ESA), and Japan's Akihiko Hishide splashed down in Gulf of Mexico, just south of Pensacola (Florida), on Monday night (Nov.8).
Their return, originally scheduled to take place after Crew-3's launch, was delayed by a series weather-related delays. NASA had to change its operations due to poor weather conditions along Crew-3's flight path and a minor medical problem with one Crew-3 crew member.
Officials from NASA left Mark Vande Hei, one of its astronauts, on the station. They decided to hand over the station to Vande Hei. Vande Hei introduced the Crew-3 newbies into their new space digs while Kimbrough returned to Earth.
Amazing photos: Stargazers spot Crew-2 Dragon streaking across night sky
After Crew-2's safe return NASA shifted to Crew-3, conducting a final readiness review before a scheduled launch on Nov. 10. Officials from NASA declared the flight ready for launch and addressed a few issues with media members during a teleconference Tuesday night. They also addressed debris avoidance and parachutes.
Steve Stich, NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager, stated that "We took our own time tonight with the launch readiness assessment to really go through all the data." "And we don’t see any problems going into tomorrow’s launch."
Stich stated that all data was reviewed by the teams and that the crew, the capsule and the rocket were all ready for launch. Stich stated that Crew-2 landed smoothly, and that no problems were encountered during launch, despite an anomaly in one of the Crew-2 parachutes.
Stich stated that one parachute (on the Crew-2 Dragon) inflated slower than others during the briefing Tuesday night (Nov. 9) "But landing rates were minimal. After analyzing the data, we have concluded that we are ready for launch.
Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX's spokesperson, stated that two of four Dragon parachutes were flown by the teams to SpaceX facilities at the Cape. These parachutes were thoroughly inspected to determine if they had any issues. Gerstenmaier said none were found.
He said that SpaceX and NASA had spoken to the vendor and looked at build records. They also poured through video and data for the Crew-2 launch and the Dragon Endurance to ensure the capsule was safe for astronauts to fly.
He stated that he had looked at the parachutes, and he didn't see anything unusual.
Joel Montalbano is NASA's International Space Station program manger. He stated that Crew-3 will launch before the space station can conduct an avoidance maneuver. NASA and SpaceX have been following a piece from an old Chinese satellite that is blocking the station's path. This maneuver will not impact the launch but will replace a station booster, which was due to occur in the near future.
Related: Crew Dragon Endurance astronauts launch on Crew Dragon 3
Crew-3 will also mark Falcon 9's 129th launch and the 93rd successful recovery of a first stage booster, if everything goes according to plan. SpaceX's drone ship Just Read the Instructions has been positioned in the Atlantic Ocean in anticipation of its planned recovery attempt. The first stage of the two-stage rocket will touch down on the ship's deck approximately nine minutes after liftoff.
This mission features a rocket that has only flown once. It had previously lifted a Dragon spacecraft as part of a cargo resupply mission. In October, the rocket was ready to roll onto the pad ahead of the Halloween launch. SpaceX tested its engines Oct. 28, certifying the rocket was ready to go.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endurance, a SpaceX rocket, is seen with the moon while it waits for a launch on Nov. 3, 2021 from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. SpaceX image credit
Crew-3 astronauts arrived at KSC Oct. 26. They spent weeks preparing for their flight. A dress rehearsal was held on Oct. 28. The crew practiced getting dressed up, driving to the pad, and finally strapping in to their Crew Dragon. While he waited for launch, Maurer took the time to clear trash from a nearby beach.
At a launch readiness review, NASA and SpaceX gave liftoff approval for the first time on Oct. 29. NASA's associate administrator, Space Operations, Kathy Lueders described the only issue as being weather.
Crew Dragon has a launch escape system which will push the capsule from the rocket in case of an in-flight anomaly. Launch weather officers are responsible for monitoring the weather at different points on the flight path.
SpaceX also has its fleet of Dragon-recovery vessels deployed in different locations around Florida, in case anything goes wrong during launch or an in-flight abort.
Forecasters are still monitoring the recovery zone, where the Falcon 9 first phase will land on board the drone ship, despite the good weather. The sea states are expected to be calm enough to support rescue efforts in the event an anomaly occurs.
Crew-3 will dock with the orbital station on Thursday, November 11th at 7:10 PM EST (0010 GMT Nov. 12).