CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Four astronauts will launch this weekend from Florida’s Space Coast on a six-month mission at the International Space Station.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 — comprised of NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron and European Space Agency astronaut Mathias Maurer — will launch from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A at 2:21 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 31. As of Friday morning, officials said the weather forecast is 80% favorable for launch.
The mission marks the first spaceflight for Chari, Barron and Maurer while it will be Marshburn’s third spaceflight.
The astronauts are scheduled for a “long-duration science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew,” according to NASA, as they will have some overlap with the Crew-2 astronauts.
Sunday’s launch marks the fifth crewed mission for SpaceX, and the fourth in partnership with NASA. SpaceX launched an all-civilian crew aboard Inspiration 4 in mid-September.
The four astronauts are set to arrive at the International Space Station early Monday after a 22-hour journey and will be there for their six-month mission. The crew will be traveling with more than 400 pounds of supplies and hardware, including over 150 pounds of equipment to conduct experiments on the space station, according to NASA.
Falcon 9 and Dragon are looking good for Sunday morning’s launch. Weather forecast is 80% favorable for liftoff, while teams are keeping an eye on weather along the ascent corridor pic.twitter.com/PG4rP1Xeg6— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 29, 2021
One of the items Crew-3 will be researching is a Smartphone Video Guidance System, which uses advanced sensors designed for “automated rendezvous and capture of spacecraft.”
“The system uses a camera to capture images of a 4-point LED beacon and analyzes the pattern of the illuminated dots on the captured images to determine the range and orientation of the target relative to the camera frame,” NASA says. The agency said the system would be tested and if successful, the software could “enable future use in multi-spacecraft formations of CubeSats or other small satellites.”
They will also continue research on how diet can affect living in microgravity, study protein crystal growth, and monitoring astronaut health.
“As always, there’s going to be a really robust backbone of science that we’re going to be executing throughout our entire mission that’s going to peak in December when the SpaceX Dragon arrives with a full compartment of more experiments for us to be doing” Marshburn said during a news conference earlier this month. “But also during that time, we want to note that we’re going to have spaceflight participants coming up on the Soyuz, private astronauts on the Axiom spacecraft — so we’ll be inviting a lot of guests to the space station.”
Launching and returning research on @Commercial_Crew vehicles provides opportunities for new @Space_Station studies. A protein crystal study launching on Crew-3 takes advantage of the return of Crew-2 days later to bring back samples for quick observation. https://t.co/8MfP6pwE3t pic.twitter.com/ykUvOCB4Hi— ISS Research (@ISS_Research) October 28, 2021