SpaceX and NASA cancel Crew-6 launch due to last minute technical issue

27 Feb 2023

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, as part of the NASA crew-6 mission at the Kennedy Space Center. Image: SpaceX

The mission was scrubbed two minutes before launch, as mission teams couldn’t detect if the rocket had a full load of ignition fluid.

SpaceX and NASA have called off a mission to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) due to a ground systems issue.

The Crew-6 launch was scheduled to take place today (27 February) at the Kennedy Space Center in the US. However, the mission was cancelled roughly two minutes before launch due to the detected issue.

SpaceX said the ground issue was related to TEA-TEB, which is an ignition fluid used to ignite the company’s 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.

The SpaceX rocket and Dragon spacecraft was carrying two NASA astronauts, a United Arab Emirates astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut. These astronauts were scheduled to relieve the current crew on board the ISS.

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.

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

The next launch window for the mission was tomorrow (28 February), but NASA said this opportunity is being ignored due to unfavourable weather forecasts.

NASA said the next launch attempt is scheduled for 2 March, depending on the resolution of this technical issue.

Earlier this month, 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 Elon Musk said is “still enough” to reach orbit.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic