By Jon Reino
On November 10th, 2021, at 9:03 pm EST, four astronauts launched from Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft bound for the International Space Station. They successfully docked to the Harmony module of the ISS less than 24 hours later.
After several weather scrubs and an unspecified "medical issue," the roughly 10-day delay finally came to an end as the 'Crew 3' mission successfully lifted off from historic Pad 39a. Although rain and clouds shrouded the area in the hours leading up to launch, conditions were favorable in time for the instantaneous launch window. This is the fifth human spaceflight carried by a Falcon 9 and the third operational flight to the ISS as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Services program.
After spending less than a day in transit, the crew was greeted by the rest of the Expedition 66 team already on station. Docking occurred on Thursday, November 11th, at 6:32 pm EST (11:32 pm UTC). This is the first flight for the Dragon capsule 'Endurance' but the second flight for Falcon 9 booster B1067, which successfully landed on the drone ship 'A Shortfall of Gravitas' a few hundred miles downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
The 'Crew 3' roster includes NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. This flight carries the 600th human to journey to space, claimed by Maurer based on his mission assignment. Commander Raja Chari is the first rookie astronaut to lead a NASA mission since Skylab 4 was commanded by Gerald Carr almost exactly 48 years ago. Joe Engle commanded Space Shuttle flight STS-2 during his first orbital spaceflight, but as a seasoned test pilot, he had three times flown the X-15 above the 50-mile boundary of space as recognized by the U.S government.
"It was a great ride, better than we imagined," said Raja Chari after reaching orbit. Although this is his first time in space, he is no stranger to speed and g-forces. Chari had accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time while piloting fighter jets in the U.S. Air Force before being selected to join NASA's 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class.
Without wasting any time, NASA announced the day after the 'Crew 3' arrival that two of its members will venture out of the station to perform repairs on a faulty antenna on November 30th. Mashburn and Barron will complete the extravehicular activity. NASAtv will host a press conference about their excursion on November 17th.
'Crew 3' will now spend the next six months aboard the orbiting laboratory, 254 miles above the Earth, until relieved by the launch of 'Crew 4' currently scheduled for April 15th, 2022.
CLICK HERE to read our 'Crew 3' pre-launch coverage
Follow Spaceflight News on social media