NASA looking at returning Crew-2 before launch of next SpaceX crewed mission

NASA has delayed the launch of Crew-3 to no sooner than Monday, November 8, at 9:51 p.m. due to poor weather conditions locally and in abort zones. NASA also stated that they will now look at returning Crew-2 as soon as this Sunday, November 7, confirming our speculations earlier this week.

SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission has had a troublesome preparation for launch. November in Florida brings difficult weather conditions making, launching hard. NASA is also continuing to monitor the “minor medical issue” that delayed the launch from November 3 to November 6, but they expect that to clear up before launch.

On top of this, Crew-2 is reaching its deadline for returning home. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is designed to stay docked to the International Space Station for 210 days. That milestone for Crew-2 will come around the week before Thanksgiving, but NASA is seeing weather concerns for that too.

“These are dynamic and complex decisions that change day by day,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “The weather in November can be especially challenging, so our goal is to move forward on the plan with the highest probability of mission assurance and crew safety.” 

Currently, NASA is still working towards a final decision on what to do. We may see Crew-2 undock as soon as this weekend or Crew-3 launch as soon as Monday. I would not, however, expect both to happen on those dates. Most likely, one will happen, and the other will be then be delayed further.

It is important to note that this will not break the 21-year streak of continuous human presence in space. Pyotr Dubrov, Mark Vande Hei, and Anton Shkaplerov will stay on the station as their ride, Russia’s Soyuz, won’t depart until next year. Along with the ISS, China has three astronauts on its Tianhe space station module.

NASA will hold a press conference on Friday with the Crew-2 astronauts about their planned return home. There we might hear more details about this weekend’s plans.

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