NASA’s Dilemma Prioritizing Crew-2 Splashdown vs. Crew-3 Launch for Space Station Astronauts

NASA’s Dilemma Prioritizing Crew-2 Splashdown vs. Crew-3 Launch for Space Station Astronauts
NASA SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts pose with their re-entry spacesuits onboard the International Space Station as they prepare to return home to Earth with departure NET Nov. 7, 2021 ahead of Crew-3 launch: Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), left, and Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency). Credit: ESA/NASA

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL –  After several delays for weather and a ‘minor medical issue’ affecting one of the four multinational Crew-3 crew members NASA faced a dilemma juggling competing priorities for the Crew-2 vs. the Crew-3 teams of astronauts already on-board vs. those set to head to the International Space Station (ISS) from Florida’s Spaceport.

Update: Crew-2 Departure & Return delayed to Monday, Nov. 8

Ultimately NASA managers decided to do an indirect handover rather than a direct handover between the two astronaut teams and bring the Crew-2 quartet home this Sunday, Nov. 7, before launching the Crew-3 quartet later next week because the agency wishes to return Crew-2 in favorable splashdown weather conditions while also retaining margin for the Crew Dragon on orbit which has a certification limit of 210 days on orbit.

As currently planned Crew-2 will undock from the ISS onboard Crew Dragon Endeavour no earlier than (NET) 1:05 p.m. EST Sunday, Nov. 7, to begin the voyage home and culminating in a splashdown off the coast of Florida and ‘most likely’ in The Gulf of Mexico no earlier than 7:14 a.m. EST (12:14 GMT) Monday, Nov. 8.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission is targeting launch NET 9:03 p.m. EST Wednesday, Nov. 10, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – but only if Crew-2 undocks Sunday.

Thus the Crew-3 launch is left somewhat in limbo until Crew-2 arrives back home on Earth – likely with a Gulf of Mexico splashdown if the somewhat iffy weather permits.

A back up Crew-2 departure opportunity is available on Monday – if weather conditions are not favorable for the primary opportunity Sunday.

Liftoff of multinational German and American astronauts flying on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission has been delayed by minor medical issues and poor offshore weather to Nov. 10, 2021 from Launch Complex 39A the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The quartet participated in a media event after arriving at KSC on Oct. 26, 2021. From left is ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Mission Specialist Matthias Maurer of Germany, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, pilot, Spacecraft Commander Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, mission specialist. Halloween liftoff set for Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

With the two astronaut mission schedules in flux and interdependent to a degree on one another NASA and SpaceX “have been continually reviewing launch and return opportunities for the upcoming crew rotation flights to and from the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program” over the past week as the Crew-3 liftoff was delayed multiple time by poor weather and the health of one astronaut.

NASA SpaceX Crew-3 multinational astronauts (from left) Thomas Marshburn. Raja Chari and Kayla Barron (NASA) and Matthias Maurer (ESA/Germany) pose at media event following their arrival at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Oct. 26, 2021. Liftoff set for Nov. 10, 2021 from Launch Complex 39A at KSC. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

NASA said mission teams had to consider “whether to return the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission from the space station ahead of launching the next crew rotation due to the associated weather considerations for both launch and recovery operations.”

Liftoff of the NASA ESA SpaceX Crew-3 crew rotation mission to the ISS had already been reset to the wee hours of Wednesday early morning, Nov.3. – skipping the originally planned and hoped for Halloween treat liftoff Sunday, Oct. 31 – due to poor downrange weather invading the northern Atlantic Ocean with a “large storm system elevating winds and waves” along the trajectory where the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule would fly and have to abort in case of a launch emergency problem with the rocket.

NASA said the “minor medical issue” was not an emergency and not related to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The agency also did not identify which of the four astronaut crew members from America and Germany was involved.

“UPDATE: We’re now targeting no earlier than 7:14am ET (12:14 UTC) Mon., Nov. 8 for the @SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts’ return to Earth from the @Space_Station,” NASA tweeted.

As currently planned a Crew -2 departure from ISS on Sunday, Nov. 7 marks Day 199 of the Crew Dragon Endeavour elapsed time on orbit – out of the 210 day certification limit which runs until Nov. 19.

Crew-2 is comprised of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Aki Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

NASA SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), left, Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), and Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough of NASA participate in the Space Olympics onboard the International Space Station. Credits: ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet

The spacecraft also will return to Earth with about 530 pounds of hardware and scientific investigations.

Endeavour will undock autonomously and NASA had planned for the crew to perform a fly around maneuver to photograph the exterior of the International Space Station.

Once the maneuver is completed the Crew Dragon spacecraft will aim for a splashdown at one of seven targeted landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida – most likely the Gulf.

NASA SpaceX Crew-2 launched on April 23 this year from KSC for a six month science mission on the station.

A recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s recycled Crew Dragon spacecraft launched at 5:49 a.m. EDT on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide onboard, Friday, April 23, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/SpaceUpClose.com

You can watch NASA TV for live coverage of Crew-2 undocking and splashdown events.

Here is the NASA TV schedule:

Sunday, Nov. 7

10:45 a.m. EST– Coverage begins for 11:10 a.m. hatch closure

12:45 p.m. EST– Coverage begins for 1:05 p.m. undocking (NASA will provide continuous coverage from undocking to splashdown)

Monday, Nov. 8

7:14 a.m. EST– Splashdown

Crew-2 is the second of six NASA and SpaceX crewed missions to fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil.

 

The multinational Crew-3 team is comprised of NASA astronauts Raja ChariTom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, along with ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer from Germany.

They arrived at the Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the SLF Shuttle Landing Facility on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 26 aboard a NASA Gulfstream jet at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center after departing from their Texas training base voa Ellington Field near the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston – for the then planned Halloween Oct. 31 liftoff.

Multinational astronauts flying on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission participate in a media event following their arrival at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 26, 2021. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Mission Specialist Matthias Maurer of Germany, at microphone, flanked by NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, pilot, Spacecraft Commander Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, mission specialist. Halloween liftoff set for Nov. 10, 2021 from Launch Complex 39A at KSC. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Whenever the time and conditions are right they will launch on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft and its recycled Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

 

Portraits of NASA SpaceX Crew-3 quartet displayed on world famous Countdown Clock at the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A Press Site in Florida. Multinational astronauts (from left): Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn (NASA) and Matthias Maurer (ESA/Germany). SpaceX Falcon 9 in background right. Liftoff reset for NET Nov. 10, 2021 from Launch Complex 39A at KSC. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

If Crew Dragon Endurance launches Wednesday, Nov. 10 it is scheduled to dock to the space station around 7:10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket integrated with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is raised erect at Launch Complex 39A ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission launch targeting Nov. 10, 2021 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Ken’s comments about the Crew-3 mission were featured in a Nov. 5 broadcast on WKMG CBS 6 Orlando TV News:

https://www.clickorlando.com/news/local/2021/11/05/spacex-nasa-weigh-astronaut-rotation-schedule-as-bad-weather-continues-launch-delay/

Ken’s photos of the static fire test were featured on WKMG CBS 6 Orlando TV News

CBS 6 Orlando WKMG features static fire test photos for NASA SpaceX Crew-3 mission taken at 1 a.m. Oct. 28, 2021, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission launch targeting Nov. 10, 2021 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Ken is onsite at KSC for the Crew-3 mission launch campaign

Ken Kremer reporting on the NASA SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the ISS from onsite at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida launching on Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about SpaceX Crew and Cargo Dragons, Artemis, SLS, Orion and NASA missions, Lucy Asteroid mission, Blue Origin and Space Tourism, SpaceX  Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2 & 3, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Please consider supporting Ken’s work by purchasing his photos and/or donating at Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/kenkremer

 

German astronaut Matthias Maurer of ESA will become the 600th person to reach space during the NASA SpaceX Crew-3 mission – with the theme name Cosmic Kiss. Maurer meets the media along with his NASA crew mates during the Oct. 26, 2021 astronaut arrival event at KSC ahead of liftoff Nov. 10. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard roared to life at Launch Complex 39A during a brief static fire engine test at 1 a.m. Oct. 28, 2021, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission launch targeting Nov. 10, 2021 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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