Four more head to the ISS
March 2 at 12:34 am E.T. from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center
With a slight delay, Crew-6 is finally on its way to the International Space Station. Lift off at 12:34 am E.T. this morning left Titusville swathed in light for brief moments as the Falcon 9 rocket roared to life, igniting its nine Merlin 1D engines. With the 1.8 million pounds of thrust breathing from the bottom of the SpaceX rocket night became day as it flew higher into the night. Then like a candle down a long hallway the rocket faded away in the upper atmosphere as the first stage booster and Crew Dragon capsule separated and went their own ways. Dragon, of course continuing on towards space, with its final goal of docking with the ISS in just about twenty-five hours from now. Falcon 9 B1078, the first stage booster tonight headed back to Earth to land on the SpaceX drone ship Just Read the Instructions out 400 km in the Atlantic Ocean.
Originally slated for Monday morning, operations proceeded smoothly through the countdown until two minutes before launch. After dawning their space suits and saying goodbye to their families the three first time space flyers and one veteran of zero G loaded into the Dragon capsule and waited while propellant was loaded into the rocket. With lift off scheduled for 1:45 am E.T. they were just moments away when launch controllers detected and issue preventing data from confirming a full load of the ignition source for the Falcon 9's first stage Merlin engines. After completing propellant offloading and disarming the launch escape system the crew access arm was swung back in place so the four men could egress from the rocket. With a thorough review of data, NASA & SpaceX determined there was a reduction in the flow back to the ground TEA-TEB catch tank caused by a clogged ground filter. Now that the filter has been replaced, the TEA-TEB lines have been purged with nitrogen, the system is now ready for launch.
“I’m proud of the NASA and SpaceX teams’ focus and dedication to keeping Crew-6 safe,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson at a 4:05 am E.T. update on the scrubbed launch. “Human spaceflight is an inherently risky endeavor and, as always, we will fly when we are ready.”
Current residents of the space station have been busy making preparations for their new visitors who will soon take the places of the Crew-5 astronauts. Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) spent time readying food and sleeping bags for their new teammates. They also relocated computers to the cupola in preparations for the upcoming rendezvous and docking monitoring operations. Wakata also configured research hardware which will house a new space biology investigation that is arriving with Dragon Endeavour.
Once Crew-6 arrives and acclimatizes to their new home for the next six months they will begin their main goal of completing some scientific research studies. Some of these studies are similar to those of the Crew-5 mission, studying organs on chips to learn how microgravity affects our bodies and test the flammability of potential spacecraft materials to ensure in flight safety. The new crew will also be hunting for tiny organisms released by the ISS by collecting samples during spacewalks. With the hope of limiting contamination of space in the future they may also learn if some Earthly organisms can survive the harsh environment of space.
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