NASA and Elon Musk’s private rocket company, SpaceX, are set to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) tonight – but not before shifting the space station so it doesn’t collide with space junk. 

SpaceX’s launch vehicle is composed of a Crew Dragon capsule and a Falcon 9 rocket. It will liftoff from NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral (Florida) at 9:03 EST (0:03 GMT Thursday). 

Three NASA astronauts – Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron – and one European Space Agency astronaut – Germany’s Matthias Maurer – will be aboard.

Crew 3 is NASA’s third operational crew to fly to the ISS. 

Crew Dragon will rendezvous with the ISS 22 hours after launch if it is on-time. Crew Dragon docks at 7:10 EST (11:10 AM BST) November 11.  

This will allow the team to begin their six-month mission on the orbiting laboratory. It floats above Earth 250 miles (400km) and is 250 miles (312 km).  

The ISS will be moved around six hours before blast-off, to avoid a piece of space junk, but this will have ‘no impact on the launch’, SpaceX’s William Gerstenmaier told reporters during a pre-flight briefing late on Tuesday. 

Pictured is the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule on launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on November 9, 2021 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket is being prepared to launch the Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and the Crew Dragon capsule are pictured on Launch Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on November 9, 2021. Crew-3 will be launched from the rocket.

The official portraits of astronauts, from left, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, Matthias Maurer, of Germany, and Tom Marshburn, are displayed at at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon capsule attached sits on Launch Pad 39-A in the background

Official portraits of the astronauts are shown at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. They include Raja Chari (left), Kayla Barron (right), Matthias Maurer (of Germany), and Tom Marshburn. The background shows a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon capsule, which is positioned on Launch Pad 39 A.


Flight commander Raja Chari, 44 (NASA)

Tom Marshburn, Mission Pilot (NASA)

Kayla Barron (NASA), 34, is a mission specialist.

Mission specialist Matthias Maurer, 51, (ESA)  

According to Gerstenmaier, the ‘debris evitance maneuver’ will alter the speed of the station by 2 feet per second (0.75 meters per second), but it will not impact Crew-3 docking.  

He said, “We have done an extensive review.” It looks like everything is in order to fly tomorrow.

Space News reports that the debris is from the Chinese FY-1C satellite. It was destroyed during an anti-satellite weapon testing in 2007. 

SpaceX claims that the weather is favorable for liftoff at 80 percent of its forecasts. 

Launch window will open at 9:03 EST (2:00 GMT November 11). However, there is a second opportunity at Thursday November 11, at 8:40 EST (1:40 GMT December 12).   

Crew 3 will be welcomed aboard the space station by its three current residents – two cosmonauts from Russia and Belarus and a US astronaut who shared a Soyuz flight to the orbiting platform earlier this year. 

From left: European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer of Germany, and NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida

Left: Matthias Maurer from Germany’s European Space Agency and NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Raja Chari at Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX's newest Crew Dragon capsule, 'Endurance', is shown atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it is prepared for launch with four astronauts on board, on a mission to the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center

SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon capsule, “Endurance”, is shown as it prepares for launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9, with four astronauts aboard. 


Crew 3 represents the third full-fledged operational’ NASA/SpaceX crew to fly to the ISS.

SpaceX Crew-1 (launched November 2020)

SpaceX Crew-2 April 2021

SpaceX Crew-3(November 2021).

There were two additional test missions to the ISS. One was crewed; the other, uncrewed.

Crew Dragon Demo-2(Crewed, May 2020).

Crew Dragon Demo-1(uncrewed, February 2019) 

The original mission had been scheduled for October 31, but it was postponed to November 3, due to bad weather. 

The launch was delayed once more after one of the four astronauts was diagnosed with a minor medical problem. This was the first time since 1990 that a NASA mission was postponed for such a health issue.  

By Tuesday evening, the crew and their ground-based launch team were prepared for liftoff.

NASA Commercial Crew Manager Steve Stich informed reporters that the weather was clear and that an unspecified medical issue had been solved.

‘They’ve been cleared for flight,’ Stich said. “All Crew 3 astronauts appear to be in great shape.” 

Crew 3 consists of veteran spacewalker and mission pilot Tom Marshburn, 61, and two younger crewmates at NASA, Raja Chari, 44, and Kayla Barron, 34, as well as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51.

Chari, a US Air Force combat plane test pilot; Barron (a US Navy submarine officer/nuclear engineer) and Maurer (a materials scientist engineer) are all taking their first spaceflights aboard Dragon’s Dragon vehicle, dubbed Endurance.

SpaceX says the three new astronauts will be among the 600th to 599th humans and 601st in space.

Pictured is a map showing the location of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida

Below is a map that shows the exact location of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral (Florida).

If Crew 3 goes smoothly, the three NASA astronauts and their one European Space Agency (ESA) crewmate will arrive about 22 hours later and dock with the space station 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth to begin a six-month science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory

Crew 3 should go smoothly. Three NASA astronauts, their European Space Agency crewmate (ESA), will land with the station at 250 miles (400km) above Earth. They’ll then begin six month-long science missions aboard the orbiting laboratory.


Following a 199-day stay at the ISS and four astronauts wearing diapers, a SpaceX capsule brought them back to Earth. 

NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with the European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s astronaut Akihiko Hoshide separated from the ISS at 2:05pm ET, as scheduled, and landed at 10:33pm ET off the Florida coast.

SpaceX’s Endeavour capsule is missing a toilet due to its faulty toilet design. All four crew members had to travel back to Earth wearing diapers. 

Because it is the second space station crew that NASA has successfully launched on a SpaceX capsule, NASA designated it Crew 2. 

Marshburn is a former NASA flight surgeon and a doctor. He has logged four spacewalks as well as two spaceflights. 

He was one of the 13 members that assembled the space station in 2009. In 2012, he returned to orbit in an unmanned mission in 2012. 

Chari, Barron and others were among 18 astronauts who were selected by NASA last year to participate in the upcoming Artemis missions. These missions are aimed at sending humans back to the moon “no sooner than 2025”. 

NASA decided to wait until after the four astronauts of ‘Crew 2’ – the second operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft – had returned to Earth before launching Crew 3. 

The four astronauts of ‘Crew 2’ safely returned home late on Monday from a record 199 days in orbit, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida after an eight-hour voyage from the ISS.

Rather worryingly, there was a delay in the deployment of one of the parachutes during the final phases of Crew 2’s descent, but Gerstenmaier assuaged concerns.  

Gerstenmaier explained that this one took 75 seconds to deploy. “But, again, everything within the design criteria.”  

Crew 2 astronauts wore nappies during the return journey due to an issue with their Endeavor capsule’s toilet. 

The successful liftoff on Wednesday, if it goes as planned, will be SpaceX’s fifth human spaceflight. It follows its September launch of ‘Inspiration 4,’ which sent an all-civil crew into orbit. 

Crew-2, the second operational flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft, returned to Earth on November 9. A screen grab from a SpaceX live webcast shows the Crew Dragon craft with its parachutes deployed just before splashing down off the coast of Florida

Crew-2, the second Crew Dragon spacecraft operational flight, was returned to Earth by SpaceX on November 9. SpaceX Live Webcast Screen Grab: Crew-2 shows Crew Dragon’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with its parachutes deployed right before it splashes down in the Gulf of Florida.

Wednesday’s Crew 3 mission marks the fourth spacecraft crew NASA has sent to orbit onboard a SpaceX vehicle. This partnership, which was established in 2002 by Elon Musk, is a public-private one.

NASA’s collaboration with them helped to herald a new age. Last year saw its first American astronaut launch from US soil for nine years. It had stopped using space shuttles until 2011. 

SpaceX will launch in May 2020 Successfully transported NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on a 19-hour journey to the ISS – marking the first crewed test flight of the firm’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. 

It was the first US crewed space launch since NASA’s end in a decade. 


The March 2 test, the first launch of U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil in eight years, will inform the system design and operations (Artist's impression)

The system’s design and operation will be informed by the March 2 launch, which was the first U.S.-based astronaut flight in eight years. (Artist’s impression).

It measures approximately 20 feet high by 12 feet wide and can hold up to seven astronauts. 

Crew Dragon has an innovative emergency escape system that was successfully tested this year to quickly transport astronauts safely to safety in the event of an accident. It experiences about the same G forces as Disneyland’s rides. 

It also has an Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) that provides a comfortable and safe environment for crew members. 

Crew Dragon will display real-time information about the status of Crew Dragon’s capabilities. This includes everything from Dragon’s location in space to potential destinations to the environmental conditions onboard.  

CRS-2 Dragon missions use “propulsive” landings. The capsule will land on a landing pad and its SuperDraco thrusters instead of splashing in the ocean. 

NASA will have faster access to cargo from these spacecraft and NASA can also gain experience in propulsive landings on crewed Dragon spacecraft.