NASA and SpaceX launch the delayed Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station

NASA has successfully launched four astronauts to travel to the International Space Station (ISS). The Crew-6 astronauts were launched in a SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle carried by a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:34AM ET on Thursday, March 2nd.

The crew will travel throughout the day and arrive at the ISS at about 1AM ET on Friday, where they will join the four members of Crew-5 and an additional three crew members, for a total of 11 people aboard the station. It won’t last long, however, as the Crew-5 astronauts are scheduled to return to Earth in another Crew Dragon in a few days.

“Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams for another history-making mission to the International Space Station!” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson in a statement. “The Commercial Crew Program is a testament to American ingenuity and leadership in space benefiting all of humanity — through groundbreaking science, new technology, and newfound partnerships.”

The launch of Crew-6 was planned for Monday, February 27, but was canceled at the last minute due to an issue with the rocket propellant ignition fluid. The compound in question, called triethylaluminum triethylboron, or TEA-TEB, is needed to ignite the propellant used in Falcon 9 rockets, which includes liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene, called RP-1.

After a review of the issue by NASA and SpaceX, NASA announced that the problem was identified as a clogged filter in one of the ground systems. Replaced the filter and cleaned the lines, allowing the launch to resume this morning.

“I’m really proud of the team – that they worked on a difficult issue in the last part of the count and made the right decision to resign, better understand the issue, and then fix it,” said Kathy Lueders, partner at NASA. administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate, at a press conference after the launch. “We ended up with a wonderful launch.”

The Crew-6 mission consisted of NASA’s Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. The four will spend approximately six months on the station conducting scientific research, including work on human health and preventing contamination of space environments.

Astronaut Al Neyadi is the second UAE citizen to visit the space station, after Hazza Al Mansouri, who took an eight-day trip to the station in 2019. His seat on this mission was obtained through a agreement with private space company Axiom Space, which has the right to a seat on the NASA Dragon mission after Axiom gave one of its seats on a Russian Soyuz vehicle to NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei .

In a briefing before the launch, Al Neyadi said he looks forward to waking up in space every morning and looking out the cupola window: “It’s literally out of this world. You can see and scan the whole world in 90 minutes, which is amazing.”

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