SpaceX and NASA have postponed the launch of the Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after an issue with the rocket’s ground system was detected. The launch was scheduled to take place from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 1:45 a.m. ET on Monday, but with just two minutes remaining on the countdown clock, the launch was called off due to a problem related to the TEA-TEB ignition fluid, which is used to ignite the SpaceX Falcon 9’s rocket engines at liftoff.
According to Kate Tice, a SpaceX systems engineer, the decision to call off the launch was made “out of an abundance of caution.” NASA has stated that it will now aim to launch the Crew-6 mission on Thursday, March 2, at 12:34 a.m. EST, provided the technical issue preventing Monday’s launch is resolved.
NASA decided to skip a launch opportunity on Tuesday due to unfavorable weather forecasts. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson praised the teams’ focus and dedication to keeping the Crew-6 mission safe, adding that “Human spaceflight is an inherently risky endeavor, and as always, we will fly when we are ready.”
The Crew-6 team that will launch on the SpaceX capsule includes NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, and first-time flier Warren Hoburg, as well as Sultan Alneyadi, who will be the second astronaut from the UAE ever to travel to space, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.
Once they arrive at the ISS, the Crew-6 team will take over operations from the SpaceX Crew-5 astronauts, who arrived at the space station in October 2022. The Crew-6 team is expected to spend up to six months on board the orbiting laboratory, carrying out science experiments and maintaining the two-decade-old station.
The Crew-6 mission is expected to mark the seventh astronaut flight SpaceX has carried out on NASA’s behalf since 2020. The mission comes as the astronauts currently on the ISS have been grappling with a separate transportation issue. In December 2022, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that had been used to transport two cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut to the space station sprang a coolant leak.
After the capsule was deemed unsafe to return the astronauts, Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, launched a replacement vehicle on February 23, and it arrived at the ISS on Saturday.
The decision to postpone the launch of the Crew-6 mission follows a similar delay to the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission in September 2021. That mission was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions.
SpaceX has had a busy year so far, with the company launching multiple missions in the first two months of 2023 alone. In January, SpaceX successfully launched and landed a Falcon 9 rocket, which deployed 48 satellites for the Starlink internet constellation.
In February, the company launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft, which delivered cargo to the ISS. The company also launched a Falcon Heavy rocket in February, which carried a military satellite into orbit.
SpaceX has played a crucial role in the development of space technology over the past few years. The company was the first privately-funded entity to launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit, and it has been working closely with NASA to transport astronauts to and from the ISS since 2020.
The company has also been developing its Starship spacecraft, which it hopes will eventually be used for manned missions to Mars and other destinations in the solar system. SpaceX is currently conducting test flights of the Starship spacecraft, with the aim of making it fully operational in the next few years.
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