Science

SpaceX Launches the Crew-3 Mission, including the 600th Human in 60 Years to go to Space


TL;DR (2-minute read)

  • SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 
  • The four astronauts will stay on the International Space Station for about 6 months to stay in orbit in the research laboratory and will bring the number of astronauts taken to space by SpaceX to 18.

Late Wednesday night, November 10th, SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew-3 mission for NASA will be the company’s fifth human spaceflight mission following the previous Inspiration4 mission last September. The flight was delayed multiple times due to harsh weather conditions but launched just two days after SpaceX brought four other astronauts home from the International Space Station.

The four astronauts will stay on the ISS for about 6 months in the research laboratory and will bring the number of astronauts taken to space by SpaceX to 18. This launch marks SpaceX’s third operational crew launch for NASA and the latest addition to its fleet of Crew Dragon capsules, named Endurance by the Crew-3 astronauts. The vehicle consists of the Crew Dragon capsule previously mentioned and a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon spacecraft and improved its Falcon 9 rocket under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided the company with $3.1 billion to develop the system and launch six operational missions.

SpaceX ‘s Falcon 9 rocket launches the Crew-3 mission on November 10, 2021. NASA TV

The astronauts launched into space on Wednesday included veteran spacewalker Tom Marshburn, two younger crewmates chosen for future space missions, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, and a German materials scientist, Matthias Maurer. “It was a great ride – better than we imagined,” NASA astronaut and Crew Dragon commander Raja Chari told mission control after the launch. This is the first spaceflight for Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer.

The SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts stand on the transporter in front of the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 stack inside the SpaceX horizontal processing facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Space X

The company made some changes based on the space launch last September. The Dragon Capsule’s toilet leaked during their last three days in orbit, forcing a quick redesign of the flushing system in the new capsule. The vehicle was also having problems with deploying the parachutes. One of the four parachutes was deployed more than a minute late and was identified in testing and fixed before giving the go-ahead on Wednesday. During their six-month stay at the International Space Station, they will welcome two groups of tourists. This year’s surge in space tourists pushes the tally over 600.

NASA also emphasized that in addition to the U.S. sending astronauts to space, SpaceX offers cost-efficiency benefits as well. The space agency is expecting to pay $55 million for each astronaut to fly with Crew Dragon in contrast to the $86 million per astronaut to fly on a Russian spacecraft. NASA last year estimated that having two private companies compete for the contract saved the agency somewhere between $20 million to $30 million in development costs.

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