Weather Delays SpaceX Launch of Crew-3 Astronauts for NASA
The four crew members, three Americans and one German, were originally scheduled to launch on Sunday.,
It’s been a busy year for human spaceflight, with three short tourist flights to the edge of space, an orbital journey by a team of amateur astronauts, a Russian film crew shooting movie scenes in orbit and two Chinese crews visiting the country’s new space station.
Amid all this activity, American and Russian spacecraft have been traveling to and from the International Space Station. A flight had been scheduled for Sunday morning, but it will now be shifted to the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Why was the flight delayed?
Weather around NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Falcon 9 will launch from, is expected to be favorable for an on-time liftoff.
But “it’s not just what happens at the launchpad,” said Will Ulrich, a launch weather officer at the Space Force’s 45th Space Wing in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Officials also monitor weather conditions along the path Falcon 9 takes to get to space, a trajectory called the ascent corridor that runs north along the East Coast. If Crew Dragon needs to trigger its emergency abort system to save the astronauts from a problem with the rocket once it launches, the capsule would need to land under good weather conditions anywhere along that corridor.
Because a large storm system is crossing the Northeast this weekend, NASA said in a blog post that wind and waves in that corridor were not safe enough for the trip to occur on time.
So the launch is being pushed to Wednesday, with a new liftoff time even earlier, at 1:10 a.m., when weather conditions are expected to be favorable at both the launch site and along the corridor.
Who are the astronauts?
Three of the four astronauts on Crew-3 are flying to space for the first time.
Raja Chari, the mission’s commander, is 44 and will be the fifth astronaut of Indian descent to go to space. He was a test pilot and an Air Force colonel who flew combat missions in Iraq before joining NASA’s astronaut corps in 2017.
Matthias Maurer, Crew-3’s mission specialist, is a German astronaut representing the European Space Agency. Mr. Maurer, 51, joined the European astronaut corps in 2015.
Kayla Barron, 34, also joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2017. She was among the first group of women to serve on a Navy submarine. She and Mr. Chari are both members of NASA’s Artemis astronaut corps — a cadre of 18 astronauts who are eligible to travel to or around the moon in the future.
Tom Marshburn, 61, who will set off on his third trek to orbit since joining NASA’s astronaut corps in 2004. Mr. Marshburn has flown on two space vehicles in the past, serving as a crew member aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2009 and on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft in 2013.
How will the astronauts get to the space station?
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is a gumdrop-shaped astronaut capsule that can seat up to seven people, but it has flown only four-person crews so far. The capsule launches to space atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, detaches from the booster once in orbit and uses a set of tiny onboard thrusters to gradually nudge itself toward a meet-up with the International Space Station.
The flights typically take about 24 hours. Shortly after reaching space, Crew Dragon lifts open a top lid, resembling the tip of an eggshell, to expose its docking adapter. The spacecraft approaches the space station in a headfirst position and autonomously docks to one of the station’s entry ports.
Have astronauts launched to the space station on Halloween before?
Just once, in 2000, almost exactly 21 years ago. The station’s first three crew members, the Russian astronauts Yuri Gidzenko, Sergei Krikalev and the American astronaut William Shepherd, were launched from Kazakhstan to the orbital laboratory aboard their Soyuz spacecraft at 3:52 a.m. Eastern time.