Three Americans and a German astronaut are scheduled to fly to the International Space Station (MSS) tonight on a six-month mission, and takeoff has been postponed several times and was originally scheduled to take place ten days earlier.
Four astronauts are to replace the team that just returned from the International Space Station, and landed on Earth on the night of Monday through Tuesday.
A new group of astronauts will fly aboard private company SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket tonight (Central European Time 3.03) on Thursday. Their Dragon capsule is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station at 19:10 on Thursday (1:10 CET on Friday).
US space agency chief Bill Nelson said on Twitter that he would be present during takeoff.
The team, which includes three NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Tom Marshburn, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Mathias Maurer, have been waiting for days at the Kennedy Space Center.
They were first scheduled to take off in late October, but take-off was postponed several times because of the weather, then because of an astronaut’s minor health problem, which NASA did not provide additional details of.
The space agency decided to return the Crew-2 crew to Earth, before the new Crew-3 crew could take off. So this time around there was no handover period between the two crews, which usually results in several days of weightlessness.
The mission is called Crew-3 because it is the third mission to the International Space Station performed by SpaceX for NASA.
However, in reality this is the fifth time that the company Ilona Maska has taken people into orbit. Before the Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions, it was a test mission (Demo-2) that carried two astronauts to the International Space Station. Then in September, SpaceX, independent of NASA, transported four tourists to space for three days.
American Tom Marshburn will go to space for the third time. He has already flown a spacecraft in 2009, then a Soyuz rocket in 2012-2013. The other three astronauts are flying into space for the first time.