A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is set to carry a batch of astronauts to the International Space Station for the fourth time when it blasts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket in the early hours of Halloween this Sunday.
The NASA astronauts on this Dragon’s passenger list are former US Navy submarine warfare officer Kayla Barron, test pilot Raja Chari and veteran astronaut and emergency physician Tom Marshburn, along with European astronaut Matthias Maurer, a German materials scientist who has been with the European Space Agency for over a decade.
During their six months aboard the ISS, the Crew-3 astronauts are slated to do multiple spacewalks for space station maintenance and also help perform scientific research in orbit involving fiberoptics, growing plants without soil and how astronauts’ eyes change from exposure to space, among other experiments.
While the Crew Dragon is a reusable spacecraft, this particular vehicle is a brand new one that’s been dubbed Endurance. The Falcon 9 booster and nosecone have flown before, however.
After lift-off in pre-dawn darkness, the Falcon 9 will return to attempt a landing on a droneship in the Atlantic and the Dragon will hit speeds over 17,000 miles per hour (27,360 kilometers per hour) on its way to intercept the ISS about 22 hours later. Docking is set to take place at 9:10 p.m. PT Sunday (12:10 a.m. Monday ET).
The four astronauts and others already aboard will welcome two private crews to the space station in coming months as the new era of space tourism accelerates. A group of Japanese tourists will ride a Russian Soyuz capsule to orbit in late 2021, andto the ISS in early 2022, also on a Crew Dragon.
A Crew Dragon first carried humans in May 2020 when astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode it to the ISS, marking the return of human spaceflight to US soil after a nine-year hiatus following the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. Dragon is one of two vehicles NASA approved for development for its Commercial Crew program.after failing to reach orbit in a December 2019 test flight.
Liftoff is planned for no earlier than 11:21 p.m. PT Saturday (2:21 a.m. ET Sunday), and the whole thing will be streamed live via NASA’s feed right here.