The mission is SpaceX’s sixth operational human spaceflight mission for NASA since it was awarded a $2.6 billion contract as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew program. It also flew a test flight with a pair of NASA astronauts in 2020 and also flew two crews of private citizens.
Boeing is also under contract from NASA to transport astronauts to and from the station, and its contract is for a higher amount, $4.2 billion. But Boeing, faced with a series of technical problems, has yet to fly a crew. The company hopes that the first test flight with a pair of astronauts will come in April.
SpaceX scrubbed an earlier Crew-6 launch attempt on Monday after a problem with a ground system that supplied a liquid that combines with liquid oxygen to fuel the nine engines in rocket booster.
In a blog post Wednesday, NASA said the problem was caused by “a clogged ground filter.” The SpaceX crew replaced the filter, cleaned the supply lines “and verified that the lines are clean and ready for launch,” NASA said.
The Dragon spacecraft that carried the Crew-6 astronauts to the station was called “Endeavour.” It carried three other crew members to the space station, including Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, the astronauts whose test flight in 2020 was the first human spaceflight mission launched from the United States since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. They named the spacecraft Endeavor after the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which carried them both on their first trips into space.
The flight comes days after a Russian rescue spacecraft arrived at the space station to replace another that developed a leak. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, determined that it was not safe to fly the crew – NASA astronaut Frank Rubio as well as Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin – home in the leaking craft. After a second capsule, this one designed to fly cargo only, developed a similar leak while docking at the station, NASA officials sought assurances that the replacement craft was in good working order. .
The back-to-back leaks have created a bit of drama at the station as well. But Nicole Mann, a NASA astronaut aboard the orbiting laboratory, said the international crew was able to work together to overcome the problems.
“It was very impressive for me to see how everyone worked together in these non-nominal situations,” he said in a news briefing with reporters on Wednesday from the station. “For me, it optimizes what we do as humans in space exploration. We unite the world as a species, and together, when we combine our efforts, we can achieve amazing things.