When will NASA and SpaceX attempt to launch the Crew-6 mission?
The sixth stage of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program is set to launch later this week from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
On Monday NASA and SpaceX were forced to postpone the launch of the agency’s Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station. Issues with the craft’s ground systems meant that the team had to stand down and reschedule the launch.
“I’m proud of the NASA and SpaceX teams’ focus and dedication to keeping Crew-6 safe,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Human spaceflight is an inherently risky endeavor and, as always, we will fly when we are ready.”
A second launch opportunity for Tuesday, 28 February was forgone by NASA, meaning that the next scheduled launch date will be Thursday, 2 March at 12:34am EST.
Why was the Crew-6 mission launch delayed?
Localised weather concerns are often cited as the reason for launch delays, but this time the problem was an issue with the ground system that would form part of the launch procedure.
During Monday’s webcast of the first launch attempt, NASA commentator Gary Jordan explained: “Teams were tracking a ground issue with TEA-TEB — that’s the ignition fluid that actually sparks with the oxidizer and allows the engines to fire.”
The decision to call off the launch came just two minutes before T-0, the point at which the launch procedure was set to commence. The agency had set a failsafe launch window at 1:45am EST but the issue could not be resolved in time to proceed at that time.
An alternative launch window on Tuesday was also a possibility but forecasts suggested that the weather may cause some problems so it was postponed until Thursday, at the earliest.
What are NASA and SpaceX doing with the Crew-6 mission?
The Crew-6 mission represents the sixth time that NASA and SpaceX have collaborated on a crewed operational flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft. The US space agency now works alongside private enterprise as part of the Commercial Crew Program, with a spacecraft owned and operated by vendors under the purview of NASA.
This launch will see four crew members sent to the International Space Station: NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.
The Crew-6 team will spend up to six months at the station, performing a number of science and technology demonstrations. They will also undertake maintenance activities necessary for the upkeep of the station.