Rookie NASA astronaut Kayla Barron to fly on SpaceX's Crew-3 mission to space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA has selected rookie astronaut Kayla Barron as the fourth crewmember to fly on SpaceX's upcoming Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station. 

Barron will join fellow NASA astronauts Raja Chari (who will serve as commander of the mission) and Tom Marshburn (who will serve as the pilot), as well as European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer (who will serve as a mission specialist). Barron will also serve as a mission specialist. 

Crew-3 is scheduled to launch Oct. 23 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, if all goes as planned. The four astronauts will lift off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, riding onboard a brand-new Crew Dragon spacecraft. 

Related: SpaceX's next flight for Crew Dragon Resilience is a private launch of 4 civilians 

NASA astronaut Kayla Barron undergoes spacewalk training at NASA Johnson Space Center's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston.  (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA's original hopes were to assign the fourth seat to a Russian cosmonaut, but the agency was unable to work out an agreement with Roscosmos in time. 

Barron, who was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy when NASA selected her to join the astronaut corps in 2017, will be blasting off on her first spaceflight. The Crew-3 mission will also be the first flight for Chari and Maurer. Marshburn, the only veteran spaceflier on board, has visited the space station twice already. 

The quartet will spend about six months on the International Space Station as members of the Expedition 66 crew, conducting research and relieving the four Crew-2 astronauts who launched in April. That crew made history as the first to ride on a reused Dragon, but for this flight, SpaceX has built a new capsule. 

(Left to right_ NASA astronaut Raja Chari, European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn are also scheduled to fly on SpaceX's Crew-3 mission. (Image credit: NASA/ESA)

Crew-3 marks the third operational mission for SpaceX's Crew Dragon and for NASA's commercial crew program, following the two-month Demo-2 test flight with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in May 2020 and the Crew-1 mission that sent the first group of four astronauts to the space station for a six-month stay. NASA has contracted SpaceX for at least six Crew Dragon flights, with the option for more depending on the future needs of the program. 

While Crew-3 may be the next astronaut flight for NASA, SpaceX will carry another crew up in September. That mission, known as Inspiration4, will be the first all-civilian crew to fly to space. The group of four spacefliers — Jared Issacman, Sian Proctor, Hayley Arceneaux, and Chris Sembroski — will blast off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center on a three-day flight around the Earth. 

Just over a month later, Crew-3 will head for the International Space Station. 

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Amy Thompson
Contributing Writer

Amy Thompson is a Florida-based space and science journalist, who joined as a contributing writer in 2015. She's passionate about all things space and is a huge science and science-fiction geek. Star Wars is her favorite fandom, with that sassy little droid, R2D2 being her favorite. She studied science at the University of Florida, earning a degree in microbiology. Her work has also been published in Newsweek, VICE, Smithsonian, and many more. Now she chases rockets, writing about launches, commercial space, space station science, and everything in between.