Falcon 9 Glitch Pushes Crew Dragon ISS Mission to November

James Marshall
October 14, 2020

The Crew Dragon flight is the first operational mission by the commercially developed ferry ship, heralding the end of NASA's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry USA and partner agency astronauts to and from the space station.

SpaceX and NASA appeared all set to kick off a new era in spaceflight later this month, with the Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for October 31.

As of an October 10th update from NASA, SpaceX and the space agency have made a decision to delay Crew Dragon's Crew-1 launch by several weeks to double and triple-check that a booster engine issue that aborted a recent Falcon 9 satellite launch has no common root with its sister rocket.

NASA is pushing the launch back to give SpaceX time to complete hardware testing and data reviews to evaluate 'off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine'.

NASA's Kate Rubins along with Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos lifted off as scheduled Wednesday morning from the Russia-leased Baikonur space launch facility in Kazakhstan for a six-month stint on the station.

The problem was discovered during a non-NASA mission launch attempt and it is now being investigated. During their stay on the orbiting laboratory, astronauts of Crew-1 will see a range of unpiloted spacecraft including the Northrop Grumman Cygnus, the next generation of SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft, and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner on its uncrewed flight test to the station. SpaceX wanted to know what happened with the first stage engine gas generators before moving forward.

However, SpaceX did use a different Falcon 9 rocket on October 6 to successfully launch a new batch of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. SpaceX has yet to reschedule the Global Positioning System 3 launch.

NASA associate administrator Kathy Lueders said both the agency and SpaceX were "actively working this finding" and hoped to be a "lot smarter" about the engines within the next week. NASA and SpaceX never confirmed the arrival but Crew Dragon capsule C207 likely reached Florida in late August or early September, where teams have since been outfitting and processing the spacecraft for final inspection and closeout procedures. The next launch of a Crew Dragon, carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station, is now targeted for early to mid November.

This was the first time in nine years an American crew launched from U.S. soil - bringing space flight back to the nation.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is using NASA's last now contracted Soyuz seat next week, joining two Russian cosmonauts for a flight to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz MS-17/63S spacecraft.

The delay won't affect another crewed mission to the ISS.

Much is riding on Crew-1.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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