Story written for CBS News & used with permission
Delayed by three days due to a last-minute technical glitch, a space station crew of four, including a Russian cosmonaut and the first Arab to be assigned to a long-duration spaceflight, prepared for a second launch early Thursday aboard the SpaceX Falcon. 9 missiles.
Crew 6 Commander Stephen Bowen and Pilot Warren “Woody” Hoburg, along with astronaut Andrei Fedyaev and UAE pilot Sultan Al Neyadi, planned to lift off at Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A at 10 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.
The countdown is timed to reach zero at 12:34 a.m. Thursday. Perfect weather was forecast at the launch site, but meteorologists were keeping a close eye on winds and waves in the Atlantic Ocean along the crew’s flight path just off East Cast where the spacecraft could be forced to abort.
But if all goes well, Crew Dragon will slide into orbit nine minutes after liftoff. From there, Bowen and Hoburg plan to observe a 24-hour robotic rendezvous, approaching the station from behind and below before moving to dock in the space-facing port of the Harmony forward module at 1:17 a.m. Friday.
The crew hoped to launch early Monday. But two and a half minutes before launch, SpaceX stopped the countdown due to problems confirming that the Falcon 9 first stage engines were getting the right amount of ignition fluid known as TEA-TEB. Engineers found and replaced a clogged filter, and the launch was rescheduled for Thursday.
Bowen and his companions will be welcomed aboard the space station by Crew 5 Commander Nicole Mann and Josh Kasada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, and cosmonaut Anna Kikina, the first Russian to launch aboard Crew Dragon.
We also welcome Crew-6 fliers: Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petlin, and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio. They set out for the lab last September and originally planned to return home in March.
But their ferry ship Soyuz MS-22 was crippled on December 14th when a supposed microscopic meteorite tore the radiator line. They will now ride a replacement Soyuz back to Earth. But to get the crew rotation schedule back on track, the trio will have to spend an additional six months in space, returning home next fall after a full year in orbit.
In contrast, the SpaceX Crew-5 and Crew-6 missions are proceeding as originally planned with Bowen and company replacing Mann, Cassada, Wakata and Kikina, who launched to the space station last October.
After briefing their replacements on the intricacies of station operations, Mann and her Crew-5 team will undock and return to Earth around March 9 to finish a 154-day mission. Bowen’s crew plans to stay up until the late August timeframe.
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