A Previously-Flown Falcon 9 Rocket Will Launch NASA's SpaceX Crew-3 Astronauts Aboard A New Crew Dragon

by Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo October 27, 2021

A Previously-Flown Falcon 9 Rocket Will Launch NASA's SpaceX Crew-3 Astronauts Aboard A New Crew Dragon

| SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Crew Dragon rolls out to Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 2021 ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission. | Source: SpaceX | 

Get your popcorn ready to watch SpaceX launch its third crewed flight (Crew-3) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program this Halloween weekend. A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket will launch NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, to the International Space Station (ISD) aboard a new Crew Dragon spacecraft on October 31st.

SpaceX is currently the only company in the world capable of safely transporting humans aboard previously-flown rockets. The first-stage booster that will be reused is identified as B1067-2; It previously supported SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-22) mission in June 2021. Now, B1067-2 will liftoff a second time from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex-39A at 2:21 a.m. EDT. Crew-3 astronauts will embark on a ~22-hour journey to the orbiting laboratory. They are expected to dock to the Space Station at 12:10 a.m. EDT on Monday, November 1st to initiate a 6-month-long science research mission.

SpaceX plans to recover the booster a third time, soon after Falcon 9 B1067-2 propels Crew Dragon Endurance to orbit the first-stage booster will land on the “Just Read the Instructions” autonomous droneship that will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida approximately 535 kilometers (km) downrange.

The previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket was transported to Launch Pad-39A during the pre-dawn hours on October 27 in preparation for Crew-3 liftoff. The rocket is now in a vertical position with a brand new Crew Dragon atop, that the astronauts called the capsule ‘Endurance’. According to NASA, the vehicle only features a previously used nosecone.

“In support of Crew-3, SpaceX implemented several improvements to the Crew Dragon system based on knowledge gained from previous flights, including making a software change to build in more communications robustness against radiation effects while docked, adding more cleaning techniques to cut down on foreign object debris, improving computer performance during re-entry, and enhancing the spacecraft’s docking procedures and mechanisms to mitigate hardware interference on the space station side of the interface,” the agency shared in a press release.

SpaceX engineers also upgraded Crew Dragon’s toilet system. The spacecraft’s toilet had some issues during SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission – the first all-private, all-civilian space tourist mission to orbit the Earth for three days in mid-September. During their time in orbit, the Inspiration4 crew heard beeping from the toilet system and reported it to SpaceX Mission control on the ground.

SpaceX’s Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability Bill Gerstenmaier shared during a NASA Flight Readiness Review that a tube inside Crew Dragon Resilience urine storage system disconnected during the Inspiration4 mission. “There’s a storage tank where the urine goes to be stored in the vehicle, and inside that storage tank, there’s a tube that came unconnected or came unglued, and it allowed urine, essentially, to not go into the storage tank but, essentially, to go into the fan system,” Gerstenmaier said, “[…] When we got the vehicle back, we looked under the floor and we saw the fact that there was contamination underneath the floor of Inspiration4.”

“For Crew-3, we’ve fixed this problem in the tank by essentially making it an all-welded structure with no longer a joint in there that can come unglued and become disconnected,” said Gerstenmaier. SpaceX engineers will present new data on the toilet system to NASA during a Launch Readiness Review on Friday, which is one of the final steps to ensure all is ready. You can watch all events leading to Crew-3’s liftoff via NASA TV, linked in the video below (schedule is in Eastern Time). Tomorrow, October 28, Crew-3 astronauts and SpaceX teams will conduct a full dress rehearsal during which they will practice all things they will do on launch day. The Crew-3 Commander briefly talked about what they will do tomorrow in the Tweet linked below.


Thursday, Oct. 28
1 p.m. – Science Media Teleconference to discuss investigations the Crew-3 crew will support during their mission.

Friday, Oct. 29
12 p.m. – NASA Administrator Media Briefing

10 p.m. – Prelaunch News Conference at Kennedy (no earlier than one hour after completion of the Launch Readiness Review).

Saturday, Oct. 30
10 p.m. – NASA Television launch coverage begins. NASA Television will have continuous coverage, including launch, docking, hatch open, and welcome ceremony.

Sunday, Oct. 31
2:21 a.m. – Launch

Monday, Nov. 1
12:10 a.m. – Docking
1:50 a.m. – Hatch Opening
2:20 a.m. – Welcoming Ceremony





All Images Source: SpaceX & NASA

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