SpaceX is ready to try again to launch NASA’s next space station crew

SpaceX is ready to try again to launch NASA’s next space station crew

By Joe Skipper and Steve Gorman

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX was poised to try again on Thursday to send NASA’s next long-duration crew to orbit on the International Space Station, nearly 72 hours after the first attempt was scrubbed due to a clogged filter in the launch system.

Two NASA astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, will join the six-month science mission to conduct experiments ranging from growing human cells in space to controlling combustibles in microgravity.

The SpaceX launch vehicle Endeavor, with an autonomously propelled Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket, was set to lift off at 12:34 a.m. EST (0534 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

About 25 hours after launch early Friday morning, the four-member crew should reach the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting about 250 miles (420 km) from Earth.

Monday’s initial attempt to send the crew into space was aborted less than three minutes before liftoff time when launch teams detected a problem with the flow of engine-ignition fluid used to start the rocket’s main thrusters. NASA said the problem was fixed by replacing a clogged filter and cleaning the system.

NASA said Wednesday that the mission was a “go” for launch with a 95% chance of favorable weather.

“All systems look good for launch,” SpaceX said on Twitter, though teams were monitoring the weather en route to the spacecraft’s ascent.

Designated Crew 6, the mission marks the sixth long-duration ISS crew that has flown aboard NASA SpaceX since the private rocket venture founded by Musk — the billionaire CEO of electric car maker Tesla Inc and social media platform Twitter — began sending American astronauts into orbit. May 2020.

The latest ISS crew is led by mission commander Stephen Bowen, 59, a former U.S. Navy submarine officer who has completed three space shuttle flights and seven spacewalks over 40 days in orbit.

Fellow NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoberg, 37, an engineer and commercial aviator designated as a Crew 6 pilot, will make his first space flight.

Crew 6 is also notable for the inclusion of UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, 41, only the second person from his country to fly into space and the first to launch from US soil as part of a long-term space station team.

Rounding out the four-man Crew 6 is Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedayev, 42, who, like Alnyadi, is an engineer and designated as a mission specialist for the spaceflight rookie team.

Fedyayev is the latest astronaut to board an American spacecraft under a ride-sharing agreement signed by NASA and Russian space agency Roscosmos, despite rising tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The Crew 6 team will be welcomed to the space station by seven current ISS occupants – including three US NASA crew members, Commander Nicole Anapu Mann, the first Native American woman to fly in space, three Russians and a Japanese astronaut.

The ISS, the length of a football field and the largest man-made object in space, has been continuously operated for more than two decades by a US-Russian-led consortium that includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.

The outpost was envisioned in part as an initiative to improve relations between Washington and Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold War hostilities that spawned the original US-Soviet space race in the 1950s and 1960s.

(Reporting by Joe Skipper in Cape Canaveral and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Will Dunham and Richard Chang)

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