After aborting during an issue with loading Falcon 9’s ignition fluid, SpaceX successfully lifted off from historic LC-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with the sixth crew rotation in part of the Commercial Crew Program. This mission is unique, as it carries the first long-duration mission of a UAE astronaut, thanks to a partnership with Axiom.
Late-night launch lights up the Space Coast
At 12:34 a.m. ET, a brand new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Crew Dragon Endeavour lifted off from LC-39A. While crewed missions always make launches more complicated, it was a clean count the second time around for the crew as both the astronauts and SpaceX gain more experience with the procedures.
On board is the commander Stephen Bowen, pilot Warren Hoburg, and mission specialists Sultan Al Neyadi and Andrey Fedyaev. Both mission specialists are international astronauts, with Al Neyadi being the first non-ISS partner astronaut to fly on Crew Dragon, thanks to a deal between NASA and Axiom in 2021.
UAE’s second astronaut flight and first on SpaceX
Al Neyadi was selected to be part of the UAE’s first class of astronauts in 2018 alongside Hazza Al Mansouri, the nation’s first person to fly to space on MS-15 in 2019. Mansouri would stay onboard the ISS for about eight days however AlNeyadi will be in space for the full six months like all other expedition members.
This is the first long-duration mission for the UAE and the first for any nation that is not an official ISS partner. This is because of a deal struck between NASA and Axiom to ensure continuous American presence on the ISS, Mark Vande Hei took Al Neyadi’s spot on MS-21 back in 2021 and Axiom was given the seat on Crew-6. To add to the firsts on this mission, while Axiom has launched an entirely private mission before, this is the first time NASA has opened up one of its coveted crew seats to a private company rather than another country.
Crew-6 set to dock with ISS Friday morning
Crew-6 will take just about 24 hours from launch to docking with the ISS. Yes, that means you’ll have to stay up late again tonight to watch them arrive and meet the rest of the expedition 68 crew.
Complete docking is scheduled to take place at 1:30 a.m. ET Friday morning but Crew-6 will finish its rendezvous with the station at about 10:11 p.m. ET tonight. As usual, docking is a slow process to make sure everything happens safely so grab some snacks, take an afternoon nap, and enjoy the show!
Second SpaceX launch coming later today
What was supposed to be a launch pad hat trick on Monday, (one launch at each of SpaceX’s launch pads) has turned into a doubleheader for today. Later today SpaceX plans to launch another Falcon 9, this time uncrewed, with a batch of Starlink satellites from its west coast launch site SLC-4E.
If all goes to plan this will be the company’s 15th launch of 2023, a good start on SpaceX’s goal to reach 100 launches by the end of the year.
Featured Image: Jared Sanders / Space Explored