TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After nearly two weeks of delays, NASA and SpaceX successfully launched its Crew-3 mission from the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday night.
The four Crew-3 astronauts inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule lifted off from the Florida coast at 9:03 p.m. EST atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The astronauts are now on their way to the International Space Station, where they will spend six months in orbit.
It will take about 22 hours for the Crew Dragon to make it to the space station. The capsule is scheduled to dock at 7:10 p.m. on Thursday.
The Crew-3 astronauts – NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, and European Space Agency Astronaut Matthias Maurer – will then be welcomed aboard the space station by the three members of Expedition 66. The four Crew-2 astronauts were originally supposed to be on board as well to welcome the newcomers, but NASA and SpaceX had to bring them home before Crew-3 launched.
Crew-3 was originally scheduled to launch on Halloween. Poor weather conditions pushed the launch back, and then a “minor medical issue” with one of the astronauts forced another delay late in the week.
After another round of unfavorable weather caused a third delay, NASA and SpaceX pivoted the focus to bringing Crew-2 home to Earth before launching Crew-3. The four astronauts from the Crew-2 mission splashed down off the coast of Florida Monday night.
While Crew-3 is being launched by a used Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon Capsule – named Endurance – is new.
“The crew has come up with the name, which is ‘Endurance,’ and it speaks to us on a number of levels,” Chari explained. “First off, just a tribute to the tenacity of human spirit as we push humans and machines farther than we ever have.”
The launch will mark the 600th person to fly into space in the 60 years we’ve been making the journey. The Crew-3 mission includes three rookie fliers.
“We couldn’t be more excited about joining the space station crew for Expedition 66,” Barron said. “We have a lot of exciting things planned from space walks to science experiments to visitors with the private astronauts’ missions and space flight participants. So it’s kind of a dream mission for a rookie flyer.”