NASA, SpaceX scrub launch attempt of next astronauts to space station
Orlando Sentinel February 27, 2023
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The first four humans to fly into space in 2023 will have to wait a couple more days as teams scrubbed an early Monday morning launch attempt with less than three minutes before the planned liftoff.
The quartet making up the SpaceX Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program strapped into the Crew Dragon Endeavour atop a Falcon 9 rocket late Sunday at KSC’s Launch Pad 39-A. Had it lifted off, it would have been making its record-setting fourth flight to the ISS.
NASA announced it would target Thursday at 12:34 a.m. as long as SpaceX could resolve the technical issue that prevented Monday’s launch.
The crew had traveled out to the pad by 11 p.m. Sunday, but around five minutes ahead of the target liftoff, SpaceX mission control let the crew know there was a problem with what is called the TEA-TEB, which is the ignition fluid for the Falcon 9′s first and second stage propellant. The booster for this mission is making its first flight.
“I think it’s 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. “The bad side is obviously, you know, you’re ready to go, waiting for it. But I think what’s really encouraging and what especially we’re appreciative is the astronauts knowing that everyone’s got our back and that safety is the paramount thing.”
The crew had to remain seated for about an hour after the scrub as propellant was offloaded, and then turned off the launch escape system ahead of their exit from the vehicle to head back to the Astronaut Crew Quarters.
Commanding the Crew-6 mission is NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen, the first U.S. Navy submarine officer to fly to space, who is making his fourth spaceflight, but the first trip for a long-term stay on board the station. He flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2008, Atlantis in 2010 and the final flight of Discovery in 2011.
He’s joined by three rookies: NASA astronaut and pilot Woody Hoburg, mission specialist and United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, and mission specialist and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.
They arrived to KSC on Tuesday morning to prep for liftoff one week out.
“I think there’s more of you here today than there was the last few shuttle launches I was on so it’s incredible to see the excitement growing and to still be a part of all of this,” Bowen said.
They will join the seven crew already orbiting on station and become part of Expeditions 68 and 69 as part of the continuous presence since November 2000.
Hoburg, a member of the 12-person 2017 astronaut class known as The Turtles will become the sixth from that class to fly to space.
“We weren’t launching from Florida when I showed up at NASA,” he said. “And now here we are on a beautiful day arriving in Florida. We just flew over our pad. And it’s just such an exciting special moment.”
Crew Dragon Endeavour was the first SpaceX capsule to take astronauts to space. Endeavour has since flown Crew-2 and the first private astronaut mission to the ISS for Axiom Space.
“They’ll have a really busy increment supporting numerous vehicles that will come and go and they’ll have more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations that they’ll be supporting,” said Dana Weigel, NASA’s deputy manager for the ISS program during the flight readiness review this week. “They’ve got a wide range of research objectives, including investigations aimed at furthering capabilities that we will need for going beyond low-Earth orbit.”
Other science on tap will be studying how things burn in microgravity as well as tissue chip research on heart, brain and cartilage functions, she said.
This will mark SpaceX’s sixth operational crew flight to the station and ninth overall with three more on tap in 2023. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which has taken longer to get to its first crewed test flight, is set to fly up to the station during Crew-6’s stay with a potential launch in mid- to late-April bringing up two NASA astronauts for a short stay. The Crew-6 stay is also expecting a 10-day visit as early as May from Axiom Space’s second private mission to the station plus two resupply missions in the coming months. Their mission is expected to last into September when Crew-7 should arrive.
“So a very, very busy time around the corner for us,” Weigel said.
©2023 Orlando Sentinel.
Visit at orlandosentinel.com.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.