At 11:20 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 4, the hatch closed between the Dragon Endurance spacecraft and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking and return to Earth of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission with NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer.
NASA Television will air live coverage beginning at 12:45 a.m. Thursday, May 5, for undocking scheduled at 1:05 a.m. and continue coverage through their splashdown off the coast of Florida at about 12:43 a.m. EDT on Friday, May 6.
Crew-3 is targeting a return to Earth about 12:43 a.m. EDT on Friday, May 6, with a splashdown off the coast of Florida. The Dragon spacecraft, named Endurance, is scheduled to undock from the International Space Station at 1:05 a.m. on Thursday, May 5, to begin the journey home.
Dragon will autonomously undock, depart the space station, and splash down at one of seven targeted landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. Endurance also will return important and time-sensitive research to Earth.
On Wednesday, May 4, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner was joined with the rocket that will launch the spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station on an uncrewed flight test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
During the operation, Starliner rolled out of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and made its way to Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in preparation for the company’s second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2)
Starliner was raised and carefully placed onto the rocket and now is fully assembled and ready for an integrated systems test, a tip-to-tail electrical check of the 172-foot-tall Atlas V and Starliner stack.
OFT-2 is scheduled to launch Thursday, May 19, to demonstrate the system’s human transportation capabilities.
About 24 hours after launch, Starliner will rendezvous and dock to the space station and then return to Earth five to 10 days later. The test is the last flight before the Starliner system launches American astronauts on the Crew Flight Test (CFT) to the microgravity laboratory – the spacecraft’s first flight test with crew on board. Potential launch windows for CFT are under review and will be determined after a safe and successful OFT-2.
Marshburn and his Crew-3 crewmates Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer have been living aboard the orbital lab since November 11, 2021, and are set to depart tonight. Hatch closure is set for 11:20 p.m. EDT, with undocking following at 1:05 a.m. EDT. The commercial crew quartet is due to splashdown off the coast of Florida at 12:43 a.m. EDT on Friday, May 6. Watch live on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the app.
The Crew-3 astronauts worked on final Dragon cargo operations and configuring Dragon for departure, final egress, and hatch closure, as well as transferring emergency hardware from Dragon to the space station prior to departure. The Endurance crew closed out research operations which included transferring and packing frozen samples and ice bricks from the Minus Eighty (Degrees Celsius) Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) into coldbags in preparation for the return to Earth. MELFI provides the space station storage and fast-freezing of life science and biological samples. The Crew-3 astronauts also removed and stowed their Actiwatches, small, lightweight, wrist-worn devices that simultaneously detect body movement and light intensity. They are used to evaluate sleep-wake adaptation and circadian cycle and determine if space travel has an impact on the sleep-wake patterns of crewmembers.
The station’s four newest astronauts, Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti, had a light duty day performing some life science, lab maintenance, and inventory tasks. The foursome and their three Russian crewmates are due to have an off-duty day following the departure of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission.
In the station’s Russian segment, Artemyev and Flight Engineers Sergey Korsakov and Denis Matveev performed monthly maintenance checks on laptops and video equipment, as well as physical training, and a robotic piloting experiment.
NASA and Boeing will hold a joint media teleconference at noon EDT on Tuesday, May 3, to discuss the agency’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) mission and provide an update on spacecraft readiness.
The teleconference includes the following participants:
Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Joel Montalbano, manager, International Space Station Program, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
Michelle Parker, vice president and deputy general manager, Space and Launch, Boeing
Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager, CST-100 Starliner, Boeing
OFT-2 is scheduled to launch on Thursday, May 19, from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Boeing’s uncrewed CST-100 Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for its flight test to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Starliner is expected to arrive at the space station for docking about 24 hours later with more than 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies. After a successful docking, Starliner will spend five to 10 days aboard the orbiting laboratory before returning to Earth in the western United States. The spacecraft will return with nearly 600 pounds of cargo, including reusable Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members.
Media wishing to participate in the OFT-2 mission overview news teleconference must RSVP by 11 a.m., Tuesday, May 3, by emailing the Kennedy newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This is our fourth crew rotation flight – it’s kind of hard to believe,” said Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It seems like Demo-2 was just yesterday, and it’s exciting to be here. We had a really clean countdown today – the Falcon 9 rocket did great; the Dragon vehicle did great. It was great to see the crew get in. You could tell they were excited to start their flight off.”
Upon their arrival at the space station, the Crew-4 astronauts will be greeted by NASA astronauts of the Expedition 67 crew already on board. During their six-month stay aboard the microgravity laboratory, Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will join the Expedition 67 crew in conducting a number of science and research investigations.
The Crew-4 astronauts will conduct new and exciting scientific research in areas such as materials science, health technologies, and plant science to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth. Experiments will include studies on the aging of immune systems, organic material concrete alternatives, and cardiorespiratory effects during and after long-duration exposure to microgravity. These are just some of the more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations that will take place during their mission.
Launching alongside the crew in the Dragon capsule is an investigation that seeks to restore meaningful vision to people suffering from retinal degenerative diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. The Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing experiment tests the manufacturing of artificial retinas or retinal implants in microgravity, where it is expected their production could be optimized.
Also traveling to space aboard the Crew Dragon are Smart-Tex shirts as part of the German Space Agency (DLR) investigation called Wireless Compose-2. The shirts are fitted with sensors, wiring, and a communications module to wirelessly transmit data to a base station. The shirt is designed to monitor cardiovascular activity like relative blood pressure and can provide details about heart contraction rate and valve opening and closing times – something normally accessible only through sonography or CT scans. These kinds of wearable technologies could be used to monitor health throughout a long-duration space exploration mission and could lead to a more flexible implementation of this technology in health monitoring equipment on Earth.
Crew-4 is NASA’s fourth crew rotation mission with SpaceX for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Lindgren and Cristoforetti have previously traveled to the International Space Station, while it will be the first trip for Hines and Watkins. Crew-4 astronauts are slated to arrive at the space station today, April 27, with docking targeted for 8:15 p.m. EDT. Following docking and hatch opening, a welcoming ceremony is planned for 2:40 a.m. EDT.
Coverage of Crew-4’s arrival to the station will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website, beginning with docking at 8:15 p.m. EDT.
The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has successfully landed on the company’s droneship, “A Shortfall of Gravitas,” stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket used for today’s mission previously flew on SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission in June 2021 and the Crew-3 launch to the International Space Station in November.
Shutdown of the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage engines occurs right on time, and Crew Dragon is now in orbit. In just a moment, the rocket’s first stage will attempt to land on the droneship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” in the Atlantic Ocean.