SpaceX will debut new Dragon capsule for upcoming crew launch

SpaceX will debut a new Crew Dragon capsule, the company's third to carry astronauts, for the Crew 3 mission to the International Space Station on Oct. 30, Elon Musk's company said Wednesday.

"Crew 3 will be flying on a new Dragon spacecraft and it's really exciting to introduce another Crew Dragon to our fleet," Sarah Walker, SpaceX director of Dragon mission management, said in a news conference broadcast from Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"We've got another [Crew Dragon] in the production line ... that should be ready in the spring to support more human spaceflight missions," Walker said.

The mission will carry commander Raja Chari, 44, and pilot Thomas Mashburn, 61, both NASA astronauts, and mission specialists Matthias Maurer, 51, of the European Space Agency and Kayla Barron, 34, of NASA. It will be the first trip to space for Chari, Maurer and Barron.

The flight will be the fifth crewed mission for SpaceX, including a demonstration mission that carried two astronauts to the space station in 2020. The Inspiration-4 mission that flew in orbit for three days with four civilians inside returned to Earth on Sept. 20.

SpaceX hasn't made many changes to the new Crew Dragon capsule, Walker said, but it did fix a loose connection in the waste disposal system

"And then we did develop a small design improvement ... to make the system even more robust for flying these vehicles multiple times," Walker said, without specifying.

NASA learned more about the Crew Dragon's systems, especially life support, from the Inspiration-4 mission, said Steve Stich, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager.

"In terms of life support ... we learned the carbon dioxide scrubbing system [did] a really good job," Stich said. "I think we learned that we have a little more capability and robustness in the system than we expected."

The mission is important to keep up science and activity levels on the space station, as NASA and Congress prepare to extend its official lifespan from to 2030 from 2028, said Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for space operations.

"These missions allow us to do more science, to buy down our exploration risks and push the bounds of technology, while continuing to establish our key international partner relationships," Lueders said.

NASA has scheduled another press conference with the astronauts Thursday afternoon.

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