- Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station from Florida on Wednesday, as the company maintains a steady pace of crewed missions.
- Known as Crew-3, the mission for NASA will bring the quartet to the ISS for a six-month stay in orbit at the Research Laboratory.
- SpaceX is launching astronauts atop a Falcon 9 rocket in its Crew Dragon capsule, with liftoff scheduled for 9:03 a.m. ET.
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Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station from Florida on Wednesday, as the company maintains a steady pace of crewed missions.
Known as Crew-3, the mission for NASA will bring the quartet to the ISS for a six-month stay in orbit at the Research Laboratory. SpaceX is launching astronauts in its Crew Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, with liftoff scheduled for 9:03 a.m. ET.
The company’s livestream with NASA is expected to begin about four hours before launch.
The launch is SpaceX’s third operational crew launch for NASA to date, and the first by Crew-3 astronauts by the latest addition to its fleet of Crew Dragon capsules, nicknamed “Endurance.” The Crew-3 mission will bring the number of astronauts launched by SpaceX to 18.
The Crew-3 mission will carry four astronauts, three American and one German: NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and European Space Agency astronaut Mathias Maurer. This is the first space flight for three crewmembers: Chari, Barron and Maurer.
SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon spacecraft and fine-tuned its Falcon 9 rocket as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided the company $3.1 billion to develop the system and launch six operational missions.
Commercial crew is a competitive program, as NASA has also awarded Boeing with a $4.8 billion contract to develop its Starliner spacecraft – but the competing capsule remains in development due to an uncrewed flight test in December 2019 which has experienced significant challenges.
Crew-3 represents the third of those six missions for SpaceX, with NASA now benefiting from investments the company has made in spacecraft development.
NASA emphasizes that, in addition to having a way for the US to send astronauts to space, SpaceX also provides the agency with a cost-saving option. The agency expects to pay $55 million per astronaut to fly with Crew Dragon, as opposed to $86 million per astronaut to fly with the Russians. NASA estimated last year that competing for contracts from two private companies saved the agency between $20 billion and $30 billion in development costs.
Endurance is a new Crew Dragon capsule debuting for this mission. Previously, the capsules “Resilience” and “Endeavour” have flown astronauts, and SpaceX hopes to add a fourth Crew Dragon early next year.