ISS welcomes new crew members with the arrival of SpaceX Crew-3

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Yesterday we mentioned that SpaceX and NASA have finally successfully launched the Crew-3 mission, sending four new astronauts to live on the ISS. The successful launch came after several delays due to weather and other issues. Crew-3 was supposed to have launched on October 31, and it was then delayed until November 3 before finally being launched on November 10. Crew-3 finally docked with the ISS 30 minutes earlier than expected on Thursday, November 11 at 6:32 p.m. .

Docking has occurred less than 24 hours after launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. On board the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft were Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, NASA’s Kayla Barron and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. According to NASA, the Endurance hatch was opened at 8:25 p.m. and the welcoming ceremony with the rest of the Expedition 66 crew took place at 9:00 p.m.

The photo above was taken during the welcome ceremony. On board the ISS when the Crew-3 astronauts arrived were Mark Vande Hei, Anton Shkaplerov (Commander of Expedition 66) and Pyotr Dubrovnik. The arrival of the astronauts at the ISS marks the third crew rotation mission conducted by SpaceX. Expedition 66 continues until April 2022.

With the multiple delays in the launch of Crew-3, NASA decided to bring the Crew-2 astronauts back to Earth using the Crew Dragon that put them into orbit. Crew-2 astronauts landed in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida, with no problem. Crew-2 launched on April 23, 2021, docking with the ISS on April 24, 2021. Crew-2 carried NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

A notable highlight of the Crew-2 mission was a spacewalk conducted by Hoshide and Pesquet, which was the first spacewalk conducted on the ISS without the participation of an American or Russian. The biggest issue that kept Crew-3 from launching in October or early November was the weather.

One of the astronauts aboard Crew-3 also had an undisclosed medical condition described as minor. This issue was resolved before the flight could be initiated. NASA was forced to abandon the Crew-3 launch opportunities on November 6-7. Adverse weather conditions were NASA’s main concern in both cases, including high winds at take-off and clouds. The weather is worrying on November 7 at launch abandonment sites on the east coast of the United States.

One of the strangest issues that NASA and SpaceX have faced in recent memory is the toilet design flaws onboard the Crew Dragon capsule. These defects were first observed during the Inspiration4 mission which put civilian astronauts into orbit for several days. These astronauts relied on the toilet aboard the Crew Dragon capsule more than on any past mission.

During the flight, alarms sounded on board the capsule, noting a problem with the toilet. The problem had to do with a tube that directed liquid waste into a detaching holding tank. The displaced tube allowed liquid waste to enter the fans used to create negative pressure in the system. Ultimately, the liquid waste ended up under the floor panels of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

While the trash leaks had no impact on the crew, it was confirmed by SpaceX engineers when the capsule returned to Earth. The problem required an overhaul and approval from NASA. SpaceX welded the tube in place. However, the Crew Dragon capsule that brought Crew-2 astronauts back to Earth did not have the fix in place, and the astronauts were not allowed to use the restroom. Instead, they were given diapers for the flight home.


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