In a frustrating disappointment, the launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying a crew of four bound for the International Space Station with less than three minutes to go early Monday was canceled due to a problem with a system used to ignite the first Falcon 9. Stage engines .
Crew 6 Commander Stephen Bowen, Warren “Woody” Hoburgh, Astronaut Andrei Fedyaev and Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, the first Arab assigned to a long-duration flight at the station, took it step by step and waited patiently inside the spacecraft while the rocket’s thrusters drained.
The SpaceX closing team then returned to the platform, opened the capsule’s side hatch and helped the crew exit the vehicle to return to NASA’s crew quarters. It was the first non-weather launch scrub for a Crew Dragon spacecraft since ferry ships began ferrying astronauts to the space station in 2020.
The scrub was triggered by a problem with the engine’s ignition fluid, a chemical known as triethylaluminum triethylboron, or “TEA-TEB,” which reacts with liquid oxygen to spin the Falcon 9’s nine first-stage engines.
If the problem can be resolved in time, NASA and SpaceX will make another attempt to launch the Crew-6 mission at 12:34 a.m. ET Thursday. Mission managers skipped Tuesday’s launch attempt due to expected inclement weather and Wednesday was ruled out due to space station rendezvous requirements.
Besides disappointing the crew, that sweep also spoiled an opportunity for SpaceX to launch three Falcon 9s in just 13 hours with afternoon launches in Florida and California to put two constellations of Starlink satellites into orbit. Those flights appeared to stay on schedule, but bad weather threatened the launch in California.
When Crew-6 takes off, Bowen and company will be welcomed aboard the station by Crew-5 Commander Nicole Mann and Josh Kasada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, and cosmonaut Anna Kikina, the first Russian to launch aboard Crew Dragon. They arrived at the station last October and plan to return to Earth around March 6 to finish a 151-day mission.
Crew-6 pilots Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio will also be welcomed. They set out for the lab last September and originally planned to return home in March.
But their ferry ship Soyuz MS-22 was crippled on December 14th when a supposed microscopic meteorite tore the radiator line. After analysis, the Russian engineers concluded that the spacecraft could not be used safely again due to the potential for overheating of sensitive systems.
Instead, a Soyuz replacement aircraft — the MS-23 — was launched last Thursday, carrying equipment and supplies in place of the crew. The spacecraft successfully docked with the station on Saturday night, providing Prokopyev and his colleagues with a safe ride home.
But to get the crew rotation schedule back on track, the trio will have to spend an additional six months in space, returning home next fall after a full year in orbit. They will share the station with Crew 6 for most of that time.
Al Neyadi, a father of six, is the second Emirati to fly in space, but the first to be named with a full six-month stay aboard the station. During his expedition, two Saudi jets will visit the lab complex for about a week as part of a commercial mission operated by Houston-based Axiom Space.
“I think it will be really fun,” Al Neyadi said after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center last week. “It’s for science, for spreading knowledge about how important flying (in space) is and pushing the boundaries of exploration, not just in the leading countries.
“Our district is also hungry to learn more. And I think we’ll be ambassadors on these missions. Hopefully, we can come back with knowledge and share everything we learn with everyone.”
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