NASA and SpaceX Crew-6 spacecraft successfully reaches orbit

2 Mar 2023

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 blasting off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex. Image: Frank Michaux/NASA

The mission, which is carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station, had to be cancelled earlier this week following a technical issue.

NASA has confirmed that its SpaceX Crew-6 mission carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has reached orbit after being launched early today (2 March).

Originally scheduled for launch on Monday (27 February), Crew-6 had to be called off two minutes before the launch due to a ground systems issue relating to ignition. Mission teams at NASA and SpaceX couldn’t detect if the rocket had a full load of ignition fluid.

Now on a nearly 25-hour journey to the ISS, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft – called Endeavour – is carrying two NASA astronauts, one Russian cosmonaut and one astronaut from the United Arab Emirates. The objective is to replace the current crew on board the ISS.

NASA said Crew-6 will dock at the space station at approximately 1.17 am EST tomorrow.

The issue on Monday was related to TEA-TEB, an ignition fluid SpaceX uses to ignite the Falcon 9 rocket engines at lift-off. NASA said the issue meant mission teams couldn’t confirm that a full load of this ignition fluid had been added to the rocket’s Merlin engines.

“I’m proud of the NASA and SpaceX teams’ focus and dedication to keeping Crew-6 safe,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said at the time. “Human spaceflight is an inherently risky endeavour and, as always, we will fly when we are ready.”

Following the cancellation, SpaceX removed propellant from the Falcon 9 rocket before the astronauts exited the spacecraft. Both NASA and SpaceX said the crew and vehicles are safe.

Last month, Elon Musk-owned SpaceX successfully performed an engine test of its Starship spacecraft, the company’s fully reusable transport system which aims to carry crew and cargo to Earth’s orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond.

During the test, 31 of the 33 Raptor engines fired successfully, which Musk said is “still enough” to reach orbit.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic