Featured image: NASA/Joel Kowsky
Lift Off Time
|November 11th, 2021 – 02:03:31 UTC|
November 10th, 2021 – 21:03:31 EDT
|Crew-3, or United States Crew Vehicle mission 3 (USCV-3)|
|Falcon 9 Block 5 B1067-2|
|Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA|
|Around 13,000 kg (~28,700 lbs)|
Where did the spacecraft go?
|Crew Dragon rendezvoused with the International Space Station (ISS) in an orbit of around 400 km.|
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Where did the first stage land?
|535 km downrange on A Shortfall Of Gravitas|
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
|There are no fairings on Crew Dragon|
This was the:
|– 5th SpaceX crewed mission |
– 3rd CCtCap (Commercial Crew Transportation Capability) mission
– 4th operational Crew Dragon mission
– 1st flight of Crew Dragon C210 “Endurance”
– 8th Crew Dragon mission
– 3rd crewed mission on a flight proven Falcon 9
– 127th flight of Falcon 9
– 93rd booster landing
– 24th launch for SpaceX in 2021
– 136th SpaceX mission
– 110th orbital launch attempt of 2021 (103rd successful)
Where to watch
|Everyday Astronaut livestream|
What Does All This Mean?
SpaceX successfully launched four more astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket took off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on November 11, 2021 at 02:03 UTC and docked to the ISS 21.5 hours later at 23:32 UTC. This mission marks the first flight of the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft.
The rocket was initially scheduled for a Halloween lift off on October 31, however this was moved to November 3 due to weather concerns in the launch ascent corridor. A minor medical issue involving one of the Crew-3 astronauts then caused the launch to be pushed to November 6. The launch was once again delayed on November 6 and 7 due to unfavorable weather conditions, but the rocket finally launched on November 8.
Crew-2 and Crew-3 were meant to have an in-person handover of missions aboard the ISS, but the Crew-3 launch delays meant this could not happen. The Crew-2 crew returned to Earth on November 8 aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft.
Crew-3 is the third regular crew rotation mission to the ISS to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Crew Dragon Endurance carried four astronauts to the station where they will stay for six months. Crew-3 will join the MS-19 cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, Pyotr Dubrov, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, bringing the total crew members aboard to the station to seven. It’s European Space Agency tradition to give names to their astronauts’ individual missions, so Maurer’s portion of the mission is named “Cosmic Kiss.”
Meet The Crew
Flying on Crew Dragon Endurance were three NASA astronauts and one ESA astronaut:
- Commander: NASA astronaut Raja Chari
- Pilot: NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn
- Mission Specialist: NASA astronaut Kayla Barron
- Mission Specialist: ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer
Crew-3 Commander Raja Chari
NASA astronaut Raja Chari was born June 24, 1977 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended the United States Air Force Academy, graduating in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He then went on to study at MIT, graduating with a master’s degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering in 2001. Following this, Chari went to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.
Chari was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 22 in June 2017, alongside Crew-3 crew mate Kayla Barron.
In December 2020 it was announced that Chari had been selected as a member of the Artemis team, the group of astronauts eligible for the Artemis Moon missions. Later in the same month he was selected for his first mission to space, as the commander of Crew-3. This will be the first time a NASA rookie will have served as a commander since Gerald Carr commanded the Skylab 4 mission in 1973.
Crew-3 Pilot Thomas Marshburn
NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn was born on August 29, 1960 in Statesville, North Carolina. Marshburn holds a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Davidson College, a master’s degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Virginia, a doctorate in Medicine from Wake Forest University, and a second master’s degree in Medical Science from the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Before becoming an astronaut, Marshburn was a NASA flight surgeon, working on the Space Shuttle Medical Operations team and the joint U.S./Russian Space Program, before becoming the the Medical Operations Lead for the International Space Station.
Marshburn was selected as a NASA astronaut in May 2004. He first flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour for the STS-127 mission in 2009, and later flew aboard a Soyuz for Expedition 34/35 in 2012.
Crew-3 will be Marshburn’s third space flight, and at 61 years old, this flight will make him the third oldest astronaut to go to orbit.
Crew-3 Mission Specialist Kayla Barron
NASA astronaut Kayla Barron was born on September 19, 1987 in Pocatello, Idaho. Barron graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2010, with a bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering. Following this she studied at the University of Cambridge, gaining a master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering.
Post graduation, Barron was selected to be in the first group of women to be submarine warfare officers. Following her attendance at the U.S. Navy’s nuclear power and submarine officer training, she was assigned to the USS Maine. Prior to her astronaut selection Barron was Flag Aide to the Superintendent at the Naval Academy.
Barron was selected for NASA Astronaut Group 22 in June 2017 and will make her first journey to space as a member of Crew-3. Like fellow Crew-3 member Chari, Barron has been selected as a member of the Artemis team.
Crew-3 Mission Specialist Matthias Maurer
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer was born on March 18, 1970 in St. Wendel, Germany. Maurer worked as a paramedic for the Malteser Emergency Service as part of his compulsory civilian service. Following this he studied Materials Science and Technology at Saarland University, Germany; University of Leeds, UK; the European School for Materials Technology EEIGM/INPL Nancy, France; and UPC Barcelona, Spain.
Maurer continued to study, graduating with a doctorate in Engineering from the Institute of Materials Sciences of the RWTH Aachen University in 2004. After this he embarked on a long term journey around the world.
Having joined the ESA astronaut corps in 2015, this will be Maurer’s first journey to space. Prior to his Crew-3 assignment, Maurer managed the development of Luna, a new ESA moon simulation facility, in Cologne, Germany.
Science During The Crew-3 Mission
Hundreds of experiments will be carried out by the Crew-3 astronauts on board the ISS, ranging from biomedical experiments to material science experiments to technology and artificial intelligence testing. The following is a handful of the experiments that will be done during the Crew-3 mission:
Bioprint First Aid
The Bioprint First Aid technology demonstration will look at the potential of using bio-ink for rapid wound treatment. The bio-ink will be printed by a bioprinter and then applied directly to the skin to treat superficial wounds. In this experiment the ink will be composed of fluorescent micro-particles, but in the future, the bio-ink will be made of the patient’s own skin cells. Once on the skin it will cover the wound like a plaster and will speed up healing of the skin by encouraging the formation of skin tissue. It is hoped that this technology will not only be used during future space missions, but will also benefit humans back on Earth.
Our cells and the processes taking place within them are affected by gravity. The Cellbox-3 experiment will look at how our cells and these processes are affected by being in a microgravity environment on the ISS. 3-D models of bone marrow and co-cultures in skeletal muscle cells and nerve cells will be used to study this. This research will benefit scientist’s understanding of blood formation within bone marrow, and the processes involved in supplying muscles with nerve cells. It is hoped that the results of these experiments will aid in the development of therapies for immune diseases and muscle weakness.
An extended stay in space has been shown to lead to a prolonged increase in the core temperature of the body, a phenomenon known as ‘space fever’. This could pose a risk to the heath of astronauts, particularly when exercising or carrying out extra-vehicular activities (EVA). The Thermo-Mini experiment will be carried out on ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. A small thermal sensor will be strapped to his forehead to measure his core body temperature and measure his circadian rhythm. The data gathered from this experiment will researchers to better understand ‘space fever’ and show whether the Thermo-Mini sensor is appropriate for long-term use in future space missions. Back on Earth, a version of the Thermo-Mini could be used in hospitals or by those working in extreme environments.
The Concrete-Hardening Project
The Concrete-Hardening project will investigate how various concrete mixtures, which contain cement, sand or regolith, water, and other admixtures, harden in a micro-gravity environment. On Earth concrete solidification is influenced by gravity, as the highly dense components sink to the bottom, but this has not yet been tested in space. The data gathered from this research will help in developing new concrete mixtures which can be used as materials for building habitats on future Moon and Mars missions, as well as a more sustainable material for building housing on Earth.
Cold Atoms Lab
The Cold Atoms Lab (CAL) is a NASA experiment facility in the Destiny module of the ISS, which will study ultra cold atoms and Bose-Einstein Condensates (BEC) in a micro-gravity environment for the first time. In CAL, a laser is used to cool clouds of rubidium and potassium atoms to near absolute zero, which are then confined using a magnetic field to create a BEC.
BECs act like a singular giant atom, so quantum phenomena can be seen on a macroscopic level. This means that experiments done in CAL can test theories within quantum physics, like the general theory of relativity. CAL will also aid in the development of integrated circuit technologies and highly precise clocks and sensors.
Crew Dragon C210 Endurance
The Crew Dragon spacecraft being used on this mission is Crew Dragon C210-1, which has been given the name Endurance. This is the first flight of Crew Dragon Endurance, and will be the first mission since Crew-1 in November 2020 to use a new Crew Dragon spacecraft. The capsule was given the name in honor of he SpaceX and NASA teams who built the spacecraft and trained its astronauts in the face of a pandemic, and is also an homage to the ship used in Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
What Is Falcon 9 Block 5?
The Falcon 9 Block 5 is SpaceX’s partially reusable two-stage medium-lift launch vehicle. The vehicle consists of a reusable first stage, an expendable second stage, and a pair of reusable fairing halves or a reusable Dragon. As Falcon is carrying a Crew Dragon capsule for the Crew-3 mission, it will not have any payload fairings.
The Falcon 9 first stage is equipped with 9 Merlin 1D+ sea level engines. Each engine uses an open gas generator cycle and runs on RP-1 and liquid oxygen (LOx). Each engine produces 845 kN of thrust at sea level, with an specific impulse (ISP) of 285 seconds, and 934 kN in a vacuum with an ISP of 313 seconds. Due to the powerful nature of the engine, and the large amount of them, the Falcon 9 first stage is able to lose an engine right off the pad, or up to two later in flight, and be able to successfully place the payload into orbit.
The Merlin engines are ignited by TEA-TEB. During static fire and launch the TEA-TEB is provided by the ground service equipment. However, as the Falcon 9 first stage is able to propulsively land three of the Merlin engines (E1, E5, and E9) contain TEA-TEB canisters to relight for the boost back, reentry, and landing burns.
The Falcon 9 second stage is the only expendable part of the Falcon 9. It is equipped with a singular MVacD engine that produces 992 kN of thrust and an ISP of 348 seconds. The second stage is capable of doing several burns, allowing the Falcon 9 to put payloads in several different orbits.
For missions with many burns and/or long coasts between burns, the second stage is able to be equipped with a mission extension package. When the second stage has this package it has a grey strip, which helps keep the RP-1 warm, an increased number of COPVs for pressurization control, and additional TEA-TEB.
The booster supporting the Crew-3 mission is B1067, which previously flew on the CRS-22 mission in June 2021. As this is the booster’s second time to fly a mission, B1067 has been given the designation B1067-2.
Following stage separation, the Falcon 9 conducted 2 burns. These burns allowed the booster to softly touch down on A Shortfall Of Gravitas, one of SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships, around 535 km downrange.
Crew-3 Mission Timeline
Countdown and Launch
|– 00:45:00||SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load|
|– 00:42:00||Crew access arm retracts|
|– 00:37:00||Dragon launch escape system is armed|
|– 00:35:00||RP-1 loading begins|
|– 00:35:00||1st stage LOx loading begins|
|– 00:16:00||2nd stage LOx loading begins|
|– 00:07:00||Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch|
|– 00:05:00||Dragon transitions to internal power|
|– 00:01:00||Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks|
|– 00:01:00||Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins|
|– 00:00:45||SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch|
|– 00:00:03||Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start|
|– 00:00:00||Falcon 9 Liftoff|
Launch, Landing, And Dragon Deployment*
|00:01:02||Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)|
|00:02:36||1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)|
|00:02:39||1st and 2nd stages separate|
|00:02:47||2nd stage engine starts|
|00:07:27||1st stage entry burn|
|00:08:47||2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)|
|00:09:03||1st stage landing burn|
|00:09:31||1st stage landing|
|00:11:58||Crew Dragon separates from 2nd stage|
|00:13:02||Dragon nosecone open sequences begins|
*All times are approximate
Once separated from the second stage, Crew Dragon opened its nosecone, exposing Dragon’s forward Draco thrusters and docking mechanism. Once exposed, Endurance used the Draco thrusters to perform several phasing burns, which increased the orbital altitude of the spacecraft and allowed it to align with the orbit of the ISS.
After Endurance reached its targeted orbit, it began to approach the ISS, entering the stations Keep Out Sphere. Working through a series of go/no-go polls, Endurance slowly approached station and eventually autonomously docked to forward port on the Harmony module.
If you want even more information on the timeline of the mission, make sure to check out the Mission Timeline Video:
Rocket section adapted from Trevor Sesnic