SpaceX is on track to launch a series of crewed rotational missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The program’s goal is to provide reliable, cost-effective crewed flights to ISS launched by American companies. SpaceX and Boeing are part of the program, however, Boeing is falling behind on its Starliner spacecraft testing. SpaceX returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States in 2020 and Boeing has not conducted a crewed flight yet.
“NASA’s contract with SpaceX is for six total crew missions to the orbiting laboratory,” the agency said, “Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time, and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.” To date, SpaceX has launched three crewed missions to ISS, two operational. Crew-2 is currently working at the orbiting laboratory, they launched atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on April 23 and are scheduled to return early-to-mid November.
This Spooky Season, NASA and SpaceX plan to launch Crew-3 astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on Halloween weekend. A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to liftoff on Saturday, October 30 at 2:43 a.m. EDT from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad-39A in Florida. A backup launch opportunity is scheduled for Halloween day on Sunday, October 31 at 2:21 a.m. EDT. “Launch on Oct. 30 would have Crew-3 arriving at the space station early the next day after an approximate 22-hour journey for a short overlap with the astronauts who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission,” the agency said in a press release.
Falcon 9 will propel Crew Dragon carrying NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, alongside European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer. They will arrive to the orbiting laboratory just in time to celebrate Halloween at the Space Station. Crew-3 is expected to work six months at the ISS Lab. Chari and Marshburn, will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively. Maurer and Barron will serve as a mission specialists.
Crew-3 will be the first spaceflight for three crewmembers! Chari, who is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and has extensive experience as a test pilot, will experience spaceflight for the first time. It will also be Maurer's first trip to ISS, he is from Germany and received astronaut training from ESA and NASA. In 2016, Maurer spent 16 days on an undersea mission as part of a NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations, which prepare astronauts for long-duration missions in space. Barron will also embark on her first voyage to space. She was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy before joining NASA's astronaut corps in 2017. The rookie astronauts will ride alongside veteran astronaut Marshburn who has traveled to space three times. He previously served as a crew member of STS-127 in 2009 and Expedition 34/35 in 2013. Marshburn has extensive experience as a medical doctor; He served as flight surgeon at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, then became medical operations lead for ISS operations.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX & NASA