KENNEDY SPACE CENTER — The first four people to fly into space in 2023 will have to wait an extra two days as teams canceled a launch attempt early Monday morning less than three minutes before a planned liftoff.
The quartet that make up the SpaceX Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program anchored to the Crew Dragon Endeavor atop a Falcon 9 rocket late Sunday at KSC’s Launch Pad 39-A. If it had taken off, it would have made its fourth trip to the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA announced that it will target Thursday at 12:34 a.m. as long as SpaceX can resolve the technical issue that prevented Monday’s launch. He begged for a possible bid Tuesday morning due to bad weather on the launch runway. Space Launch Delta 45 Weather Squadron is giving Thursday a try 90% chance of favorable launch conditions.
“I am proud of the NASA and SpaceX teams’ focus and dedication to keeping Crew 6 safe,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release. “Human spaceflight is an inherently risky endeavor, and as always, we’ll fly when we’re ready.”
The crew had flown to the pad by 11 p.m. Sunday, but about five minutes before target liftoff, SpaceX mission control notified the crew of a problem with ground systems that prevented them from confirming that the rocket had a full payload of triethylaluminum triethylene. Boron (TEA-TEB), the propellant ignition fluid for Falcon 9’s first and second stages. The booster for this mission is making its first flight.
“I think it’s both good and bad,” said NASA astronaut Raja Chari, who flew on SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission that launched in 2021 and was part of the launch coverage. “Obviously the downside is, you’re ready to go, waiting for it. But I think what’s really encouraging and what we especially appreciate is the astronauts knowing that everyone has our back and that safety is the main thing.”
The crew had to remain seated for about an hour after the scrub as the fuel was dumped, then turn off the launch escape system before they exited the vehicle to return to the astronaut station.
The Crew-6 mission is led by NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen, the first US Navy submarine officer to fly into space, who is making his fourth spaceflight, but the first for a long-term stay aboard the station. He flew on the space shuttle Endeavor in 2008, Atlantis in 2010, and Discovery’s final flight in 2011.
He was joined by three rookies: NASA astronaut and pilot Woody Hoburg, mission specialist and Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, and mission specialist and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev.
They arrived in Kuwait City Combined on Tuesday morning to prepare for take-off for one week.
“I think there are more of you here today than there were at the last shuttle launches I was on, so it’s amazing to see the excitement build and to still be a part of all of this,” Bowen said.
They will join the crew of seven already in orbit and become part of Expeditions 68 and 69 as part of the ongoing presence since November 2000.
Hoburg, a member of the 2017 class of 12 astronauts known as The Turtles, will become the sixth of that class to fly into space.
“We weren’t launching from Florida when I came to NASA,” he said. “And now here we are on a beautiful day arriving in Florida. We just flew on our pads. And it’s just such a special, exciting moment.”
Crew Dragon Endeavor was the first SpaceX capsule to carry astronauts into space to fly on the Demo-2 mission in May 2020 and return human spaceflight from the United States for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. Since then, Crew Endeavor has flown the Crew-2 and the first Private astronaut mission to the International Space Station for Axiom Space.
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said Dana Weigel, NASA’s deputy director for the International Space Station Program during this week’s flight readiness review. “They have a wide range of research goals, including investigations aimed at enhancing the capabilities we’ll need to go beyond low Earth orbit.”
She said other sciences will study how things burn in microgravity as well as tissue chip research on the functions of the heart, brain and cartilage.
This will be the sixth operational flight by a SpaceX crew to the station and the ninth overall with three more in 2023. The Boeing CST-100 Starliner, which took longer to reach its first crewed test flight, is scheduled to fly to the station during Crew-6 stays with Possible launch in mid-to-late April to bring two NASA astronauts for a short stay. The Crew-6 residence also anticipates a 10-day visit early in May from Axiom Space’s second special mission to the station as well as two resupply missions in the coming months. Their mission is expected to continue in September when Crew 7 arrives.
“So, it was a very busy time for us,” Weigel said.
Monday’s scrub was the first of three launch attempts on SpaceX’s calendar with a Starlink launch from California at 2:31 p.m. and another Starlink launch from the Cape Canaveral Space Force station targeting 6:13 p.m.
If they both fly, it would be the fastest turnaround among SpaceX launches to date with less than four hours between launches. The previous schedule had them 53 minutes apart, which would have set a record for U.S. orbital launches beating the 99-minute shift set in 1966 during the Gemini XII mission with James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin. The duo lifted off in a Titan II rocket from what was then Cape Kennedy Launch Complex 19 after launching the mission’s Agena target vehicle one mile south at Launch Complex 14. The Gemini and Agena vehicles launched side by side during the program that laid the groundwork for the Apollo moon missions.
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