Halloween SpaceX mission to the ISS is a 'go', if NASA approves toilet

Now THAT could be a scary trip! SpaceX is a ‘go’ to launch Halloween mission to the International Space Station (but only if the Crew Dragon capsule’s upgraded toilet is approved by NASA)

  • The Crew-3 mission will take NASA and ESA astronauts to the orbiting laboratory
  • Lift-off has been scheduled for 2:21 AM EDT (07:21 GMT) on Sunday October 31
  • The capsule will blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center
  • Upgrades to the toilet were prompted by a leak in another capsule last month

SpaceX’s Halloween mission to the International Space Station looks set to launch as scheduled — providing NASA approves the Crew Dragon capsule’s upgraded toilet.

The in-flight ‘facilities’ needed a revamp after a minor leak was noticed in the wake of last month’s three-day Inspiration4 mission, which took private citizens into orbit.

The Crew-3 flight will transport four astronauts to the orbiting lab for a six-month stay — including NASA’s Raja Chari (the mission commander) and Tom Mashburn.

Making up the final two members of the crew are Kayla Barron, also of NASA, and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency.

Weather permitting, lift-off atop a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for 2:21 AM EDT (07:21 GMT) on Sunday October 31 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The team will arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) early in the morning on November 1, where they will handover with their predecessors on the Crew-2 flight.

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SpaceX’s Halloween mission to the International Space Station (ISS) looks set to launch as scheduled — providing NASA approves the Crew Dragon capsule’s upgraded toilet. Pictured: the crew capsule arriving at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday

The Crew-3 flight will transport four astronauts to the orbiting lab for a six-month stay — including NASA’s Raja Chari (the mission commander) and Tom Mashburn. Making up the final two members of the crew are Kayla Barron, also of NASA, and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency. Pictured: an artist’s impression of a Crew Dragon spacecraft docking at the ISS

NASA announced that the Crew-3 mission had the green light for Sunday morning’s launch following a successful flight readiness review yesterday.

‘We had a good review today,’ NASA’s International Space Station program manager Joel Montalbano said during last night’s press conference.

Although the review flagged no unexpected issues that would necessitate pushing back the launch date, NASA and SpaceX engineers are still working to resolve a possible flaw in the capsule’s toilet waste system spotted last month.

The issue was noted after the Inspiration4 mission returned to Earth, having taken billionaire CEO Jared Isaacman, geologist Sian Proctor, data engineer Christopher Sembroski and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Hayley Arceneaux into orbit.

Engineers inspecting the ‘Resilience’ capsule used in that mission found that a tube feeding into the toilet waste storage tank had come loose during the flight.

This, SpaceX vice president of build and flight reliability Bill Gerstenmaier said, ‘allowed urine to not go into the storage tank but, essentially, to go into the fan system’ — albeit not in any way that significantly affected the Inspiration4 mission.  

‘We didn’t really even notice it; the crew didn’t notice it until we got back,’ he added.

While the Crew-3 mission will be using a different capsule — recently named ‘Endurance’ — its toilet system shares a design with that of the Resilience capsule.

NASA announced that the Crew-3 mission had the green light for Sunday morning’s launch following a successful flight readiness review yesterday.  Pictured: the capsule arrives in its hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Sunday

In the wake of the Inspiration 4 flight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that upgraded toilets were definitely needed. He added: ‘We had some challenges with it this flight.’ 

In the wake of the Inspiration4 flight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that upgraded toilets were definitely needed. He added: ‘We had some challenges with it this flight.’

To address the issue, Endurance will be upgraded with a fully welded toilet system — one that, it is hoped, will prevent tubes from coming loose.

NASA engineers are expected to give the redesign the necessary pre-flight approval within the coming days.

The flaw in the original toilet plumbing may also affect the Endeavour capsule which flew SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission to the ISS back in late April this year — and is presently docked with the orbiting laboratory and scheduled to depart on November 4.

However, astronauts have reported that an examination of the capsule has shown no signs of leaks — which would be visible in the form of corrosion brought about by a chemical SpaceX’s waste system uses to remove ammonia from urine.

It is likely, however, that the capsule will require upgrading on its return to Earth.

As Dr Gerstenmaier noted, Endeavour’s toilet facilities were only used during its 24-hour trip to the ISS — and the design might only be susceptible to issues on the kind of longer flight experienced by Resilience on its three-day Inspiration4 flight.

Weather permitting, lift-off atop a Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for 2:21 AM EDT (07:21 GMT) on Sunday October 31 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida

SPACEX CREW DRAGON CAPSULE MEASURES 20FT AND CAN CARRY 7 ASTRONAUTS AT A TIME

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 capsule measures about 20 feet tall by 12 feet in diameter, and will carry up to 7 astronauts at a time. 

The Crew Dragon features an advanced emergency escape system (which was tested earlier this year) to swiftly carry astronauts to safety if something were to go wrong, experiencing about the same G-forces as a ride at Disneyland. 

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

Crew Dragon’s displays will provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft’s capabilities, showing everything from Dragon’s position in space, to possible destinations, to the environment on board.  

Those CRS-2 Dragon missions will use ‘propulsive’ landings, where the capsule lands on a landing pad using its SuperDraco thrusters rather than splashing down in the ocean. 

That will allow NASA faster access to the cargo returned by those spacecraft, and also build up experience for propulsive landings of crewed Dragon spacecraft.

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