SpaceX's Crew-3 astronaut mission for NASA launches

    Credit: Greg Scott


 11 November 2021

Marcus House
Written by Marcus House

As the Crew-2 returned home, preparations were in full swing for the launch of Crew 3. Originally slated for a Halloween launch, it was stuck in a string of delays due to a minor medical issue involving one of the astronauts and weather at the abort sites. But with all the issues resolved and weather trending in the right way, on Wednesday night (11 November 2021), SpaceX launched NASA Astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, Thomas Marshburn, and ESA Astronaut Mattias Maurer aboard a newly hatched Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance, atop the Falcon 9. This was the 5th crewed launch (including Inspiration 4 of course) and the 4th long duration mission to the ISS for SpaceX in collaboration with NASA. These are incredibly exciting missions to watch.  

After launching to an initial parking orbit, Dragon performed a set of in-orbit manoeuvres to align itself to the International Space Station's orbit. On Thursday evening, Endurance successfully performed three final burns and docked with the International Docking Adapter 2. 

The commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft for this mission is astronaut Raja Chari. He’s responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry and onboard ISS, will also serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 66. Serving as the Pilot is veteran astronaut Thomas Marshburn. Responsible for spacecraft systems and performance, he’s the second-in-command for this mission and will also assume the command of the station for Expedition 67. Kayla Barron is a mission specialist, along with ESA Astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist. Thomas is actually the only crew member that has travelled into orbit before, so for Raja, Kayla and Matthias this is going to be a huge first and they should be presented with their astronaut wings similar to what we have seen in past flights.

“It is always thrilling to watch a rocket launch, especially when an international crew of astronauts is sitting atop it. Matthias Maurer is the second ESA astronaut to be launched in a Crew Dragon spacecraft under the U.S. Commercial Crew Program. We are delighted to see him fly alongside NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, continuing a long history of international collaboration in space for the benefit of Earth. On behalf of ESA, I’d like to wish all Crew-3 astronauts a productive and enjoyable mission.” - Josef Aschbacher, ESA director general

With this launch, there are now currently 10 humans in space counting astronauts, cosmonauts, and taikonauts all living and working in Low Earth Orbit. We’re living in an amazing era of human spaceflight as more and more countries get involved with sending humans to space. It’s also astounding to see SpaceX teams ramp up their crewed launches in the last 18 months; and it’s going to only increase in the future with the start of Axiom missions in 2022.

“With Raja, Thomas, Kayla and Mattias on their way to the International Space Station just days after Crew-2’s return, we’re seeing the power of American ingenuity right before our eyes. NASA’s partnership with SpaceX is not only critical for cutting-edge research, but also for international collaboration. The space station brings together nations around the world for the benefit of all. Godspeed, Crew-3 – I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish.”

~ Bill Nelson ~