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SpaceX and NASA launch an international crew to a space station

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — SpaceX and NASA have launched a new crew of astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station, kicking off a nearly six-month stay in space.

The mission, carrying two NASA astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 12:34 a.m. Thursday.

The Crew Dragon, the vehicle carrying the astronauts, separated from the rocket after reaching orbit and is expected to spend about a day maneuvering through space before connecting to the space station. The capsule is scheduled to dock at 1:17 a.m. this Friday.

Thursday’s launch marked the second attempt to launch this mission, called Crew-6, from Earth. Monday’s first launch attempt was affected by what authorities said was a clogged filter

During the launch broadcast, officials reported that ground systems engineers made the decision to cancel the launch with less than three minutes left on the clock. Engineers said they have discovered a problem with a material called triethylaluminum triethylboron, or TEA-TEB, which is a highly flammable liquid used to ignite the engines of the Falcon 9 rocket at liftoff.

The problem occurred during the “bleeding” process, which is intended to ensure that each of the Falcon 9 rocket’s nine engines is fed enough TEA-TEB fluid when it’s time to ignite. The problem arose when liquid moved from a reservoir in the ground into a “catch tank,” according to NASA.

“After a thorough review of ground data and the system, NASA and SpaceX have determined that there is a decrease in flow to the TEA-TEB catch tank due to a clogged ground filter,” according to an update from NASA posted to their website early Wednesday. .

NASA said the clogged filter explained the deviation seen by launch day engineers.

“The SpaceX teams replaced the filter, purged the TEA-TEB line with nitrogen, and verified that the lines are clean and ready for launch,” the post said.

Everything about this version

The mission marks the seventh astronaut flight conducted by SpaceX on behalf of NASA since 2020, continuing public-private efforts to keep the laboratory in orbit fully equipped.

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Crew-6’s onboard team includes NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, and first pilot Warren “Woody” Hoburg, as well as Sultan Al Neyadi, a second astronaut from the United Arab Emirates. to space. and Russian cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev.

Once Bowen, Hoborg, Fedayev, and El Neyadi board the space station, they will work to handle operations for the SpaceX Crew-5 astronauts who arrive at the space station in October 2022.

Photographers readjust their remote cameras to cover the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with its Endeavor crew capsule at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on March 1. Credit: John Raoux/AP

They are expected to spend up to six months aboard the orbiting laboratory, conducting science experiments and maintaining the two-decade-old station.

The mission comes as the astronauts currently on the space station deal with a separate transportation issue. In December, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which was used to transport astronauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petlin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to the space station, had a coolant leak. After the capsule was deemed unsafe to return the cosmonauts, Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, launched a replacement vehicle on February 23. I got to the space station on Saturday.

Work with the Russians

Russian cosmonaut Fedyaev joined Crew-6 as part of a joint ride agreement signed in 2022 between NASA and Roscosmos. The agreement aims to ensure continued access to the space station for both Roscosmos and NASA: If the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule or the Russian Soyuz spacecraft used to transport people there encounters difficulties and is decommissioned, their counterparts can take over. Bringing astronauts from both countries into orbit.

This flight marks Fedyaev’s first mission into space.

Despite the ongoing geopolitical tensions sparked by the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia remains the United States’ primary partner on the space station. NASA officials have repeatedly said that the conflict had no impact on cooperation between the two nations’ space agencies.

“Space cooperation has a very long history, and we are setting an example for how people live on Earth,” Fedeev said during a January 24 press conference.

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And Bowen, the 59-year-old NASA astronaut who will be commander of the Crew-6 mission, also weighed in.

“I’ve been working and training with astronauts for over 20 years and it’s always been amazing,” he said during the briefing. “Once you get into space, we’ll have one crew, one vehicle, and we’ll all have the same goal.”

Bowen grew up in Cohasset, Massachusetts and studied engineering, earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the US Naval Academy in 1986 and a master’s in ocean engineering from the MIT and Woods Hole Joint Oceanography Program in 1993.

He also completed military submarine training and served in the US Navy before being selected for the NASA Astronaut Corps in 2000, becoming the first submarine officer selected by the space agency.

He previously completed three missions between 2008 and 2011, during NASA’s space shuttle program, and logged a total of more than 47 days in space.

“I just hope my body keeps the memory of 12 years so I can enjoy it,” Bowen said of the Crew-6 launch.

Astronauts from SpaceX Crew-6 pose for a photo after arriving at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 21: (from left to right) Roscosmos astronaut Andrei Fedyaev, Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, Warren “Woody” Hoburgh and Stephen F. Bowen. (Credit: Kim Shiflett/NASA)

Meet the rest of Crew-6

Serving as the pilot for that mission, Hoburgh is a native of Pittsburgh who earned his PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, before becoming an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. He joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 2017.

“We’re going to live in space for six months. I think about six months ago and I think: Well, that’s a long time,” Hoburgh told reporters about his expectations for the trip.

But Hoburgh added, “I’m looking forward to getting our first look at the dome,” referring to the area on the space station known to have a large window that offers panoramic views of Earth.

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Al Neyadi, who served as a back-up in 2019 for Hazza Ali Al Mansoori, is now set to become the first Emirati astronaut to travel into orbit, and the first Emirati astronaut to complete a long-term stay in space.

At a press conference in January, Al Neyadi said he planned to bring food from the Middle East to share with his colleagues while he was in space. As a trained jujitsu practitioner, he will also wear a kimono, the traditional martial arts outfit.

“It’s hard to believe that this is actually happening,” Al Neyadi said at a news conference after arriving at Kennedy Space Center on February 21. “I can’t ask for more from the team. I think we are ready physically, mentally and technically.”

What will they do in space?

During their time in space, Crew-6 astronauts will oversee more than 200 science and technology projects, including investigating how materials burn in a microgravity environment and investigating microbial samples to be collected from outside the station. outer space.

The crew will host two other major missions that will pass through the space station during their stay. The first is the Boeing Crew Flight Test, which will mark the first astronaut mission under the Boeing-NASA partnership. Scheduled for April, the flight will bring NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams to the space station, marking the final stage of a test and demonstration program that Boeing must undergo to certify its Starliner spacecraft for astronaut missions.

Then, in May, a group of four astronauts is scheduled to arrive at Axiom Mission 2, or AX-2 for short, a privately funded spaceflight to the space station. The initiative, which will deploy a separate SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, will be led by Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut and now a private astronaut for the Texas-based space company Axiom, who negotiated and organized the mission.

It will also include three paying customers, similar to Axiom Mission 1, who visited the space station in April 2022, including the first Saudi astronauts to visit the orbiting laboratory. Their seats were paid for by Saudi Arabia.

Bowen said in January that the Boeing CFT mission and the AX-2 would be important stops.

“It’s another paradigm shift,” he said. “These two events, the big events, in spaceflight that happened during the surge, plus all the other work we have to do, I don’t think we can fully grasp it until after the fact.”