NASA SpaceX Crew 3 Falcon 9 with Dragon Has Faced Many Changes Before It Even Launched On Nov. 10th 2021 at 9:03 PM EDT or 2:03 UTC Nov. 11th
The Crew 3 Dragon capsule Endurance has been on the launch pad for nearly two weeks (since Oct. 30th) along with the first stage Falcon 9 booster B-1067.2 (it’s second flight) patiently waiting for storms to clear, oceans to calm for booster landings and for the Crew 3 to become healthy to fly to space making history for three first time flyers.
Because the November weather has been so challenging for NASA they had to bring Crew 2 home first and land in the finally calm Gulf of Mexico waters which caused a temporary concern when one of the four parachutes was slow to fully open for seventy seconds.This initial concern caused both NASA & SpaceX to fly the Crew 2 parachutes back to Cape Kennedy by helicopter for immediate examination and opening in hangers including going back to the build sheets for both Crew 2 and Crew 3 parachutes.
It was determined by all the teams that the Crew 2 landing was safe and met all normal design parameters including the historical testing data for a four parachute landing system used on Dragon, Orion and even the historic Apollo capsules. All three capsule versions can safely land on only three parachutes and have one chute failing.
Another change occurring before launch is SpaceX has had to change out the drone ships down range for the booster landing attempt and has sent ASOG A Shortfall Of Gravitas to replace JRTI Just Read The Instructions due to the battering JRTI took from twenty to twenty five foot waves crashing into the drone ship and dramatically pushing it off course during the ocean storms downrange.
A historic part of this beginning journey for Crew 3 is the three first time space travelers on the mission will become the 599th, 600th and 601st humans in space! Rookie Commander Raja Chari will be the 599th person in space. ESA astronaut mission specialist from Germany Matthias Maurer will be the 600th person and mission specialist Kayla Barron will be the 601st person in space. The fourth crew member Thomas Marshburn is on his third space flight.
It is important for NASA, ESA and JAXA to get their new astronauts in space for flight experience and low earth orbit training on the ISS for the future Artemis missions on returning to the moon including building the Gateway outpost.
For SpaceX this launch marks the fifth human spaceflight mission since May 2020 with DM2. The European segment of this Expedition 66 mission on the ISS is called “Cosmic Kiss”. The Expedition 66 mission included all astronauts from SpaceX Crew 2 & 3 along with the crews from Soyuz MS19 & MS21 which started on October 17th, 2021 and will conclude on March 28th 2022.
It was a beautiful launch from historic 39A and flawless start to the Crew 3 six month journey on the ISS. God Speed Crew 3!
Everyone at spacenews.lu would like to thank NASA for the access to cover and document this important mission to space.
Article and Photos by Scott Schilke for spacenews.lu & space-news.es