The hardware of Crew-3

Launching November 10th at 9:03 Pm Est from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center

You’ve met the crew of the Crew-3 mission now lets meet the other important players of the mission. It would be hard after all to send astronauts to space with no spacecraft. This is where the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon comes into play. After passing NASA certification tests in 2020 it is currently the only operational crew carrier in the United States that is capable of bringing astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

As when any astronauts fly a capsule for it’s first mission it’s up to them to name that capsule. In early October it was announced the crew would be naming this brand new Dragon capsule “Endurance”. Commander Raja Chari said, ” it’s a tribute to the tenacity of human spirit, as we push humans and machines farther than we ever have. It’s also a nod to the fact that teams that got us here have endured through a pandemic.” The name Endurance is no stranger to exploration either. Ernest Shackleton’s “Endurance” was the three masted vessel used during his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

Being the fifth crewed mission to launch for SpaceX this new capsule comes with a few upgrades from lessons learned on those previous flights. A few changes have been made to software which will improve communications during radiation exposure while docked at the space station, also some new cleaning capabilities to remove accumulated dust and debris inside the capsule and improved automation during re-entry. There was also an issue discovered after the Inspiration-4 mission with some of the toilets piping. This issue has been fixed up and no leaks are expected during this space flight. Another new feature that has many excited is the NASA “worm” logo that has been spotted on the outside of the Dragon capsule. Returning to the agency during Jim Bridenstine’s tenure the logo was featured on SpaceX’s B1058 booster which flew the DM-2 mission back in mid 2020. Since then it has also been featured on the second stage of all other SpaceX Commercial Crew Program missions.

Beneath the crew capsule is the Falcon’s second stage. The only expended part of the rocket, it is equipped with a singular MVacD engine which is capable of putting payloads into several different orbits, or in this case, catching the International Space Station.

Underneath that second stage is a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster. This will be the second time a flight proven booster will launch astronauts. Booster 1067 has made one flight previously in June of this year where it launched a Cargo Dragon capsule to rendezvous with the ISS (International Space Station). This doesn’t mean the end for B1067 either, about eight minutes after launch the first stage booster will land back down on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” which is positioned out in the Atlantic Ocean. Once landed, the 95th landing at that, it will be brought back to Cape Canaveral and refurbished for another flight. Currently the most flights held by a Falcon 9 is tied at ten flights each with B1051 and B1048. We also know that B1051 is scheduled to fly for an eleventh time as it was slated to fly from Vandenburg California on another Starlink mission before that launch was delayed due to some issues with the satellites.

After lift off and first stage separation the second stage will continue to propel the crew towards their intended orbit. From there the second stage will also separate and the Crew Dragon will open its nosecone, exposing the Dragon’s forward Draco thrusters and docking mechanism. Endurance will use those thrusters to perform several phasing burns to increase the orbital altitude of the spacecraft and align it with the orbit of the space station. Once in that targeted orbit the craft will approach the ISS. Then working through a series of go/no-go polls the capsule will slowly approach the station and eventually dock autonomously to the forward port on the Harmony module.

Once docked to the ISS the Dragon “Endurance” and it’s crew will remain onboard for approximately six months where they will join the Expedition 66 crew members and temporarily increase the number of humans inside to eleven. Once Crew Dragon “Endeavour” departs the space station at the end of the first week in November the Expedition 66 will turn into Expedition 67 and bring the number of humans onboard back down to seven. From there things will stay the same until Crew-4 launches in April of 2022 and another transition will begin.

Over the course of the Crew-3 mission hundreds of experiments will be carried out by the crew members, ranging from biomedical, to material science experiments. Also some technology and artificial intelligence testing will be done. Including the astronauts, experiments, and supplies onboard the Dragon capsule there will be a total payload mass of 28,700lbs being flown up to our orbiting science laboratory.