SpaceX and NASA send international crews to the space station

(CNN) — SpaceX and NASA have sent a new crew of astronauts to the International Space Station for about six months in space.

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

Crew Dragon, the astronaut-carrying vehicle, is expected to separate from the rocket after reaching orbit and spend a day maneuvering in space before rejoining the space station. The capsule is scheduled to dock at 1:17 a.m. this Friday.

Thursday’s launch marked the second attempt to get the mission, known as Crew-6, off the ground. Monday’s first launch attempt was hampered by what officials said was a clogged filter

During the launch broadcast, ground systems engineers made the decision to abort the launch with less than three minutes on the clock, officials said. Engineers said they identified the problem with a substance called triethylaluminum triethylboron, or TEA-TEB.

The problem occurred during the “bleeding” process, which was intended to ensure that each of the nine Falcon 9 rocket motors was supplied with sufficient TEA-TEB fluid at ignition time. According to NASA, the problem arose when fluid moved from a tank on the ground to a “catch tank.”

“After a thorough review of the data and the ground system, NASA and SpaceX determined that ground filtration reduced flow back to the TEA-TEB catch tank on the ground,” NASA’s update posted on their website said. Early Wednesday. .

A clogged filter explained the aberration engineers saw on launch day, NASA said.

“SpaceX crews have replaced the filter and purged the TEA-TEB line with nitrogen to verify that the lines are clean and ready for launch,” the post said.

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

The Crew-6 crew on board included NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, and first pilot Warren “Woody” Hoberg, and second astronaut Sultan Alniadi from the United Arab Emirates. to space. and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

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Once Bowen, Hoburg, Fedyaev and Alneyadi are aboard the space station, they will conduct operations for the SpaceX Crew-5 astronauts arriving at the space station in October 2022.

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

They will spend up to six months in the orbiting lab, conducting science experiments and maintaining the two-decade-old station.

The mission comes as astronauts currently aboard the space station deal with a unique transportation problem. In December, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft used to transport astronauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to the space station suffered a coolant leak. Russian space agency Roscosmos launched a replacement vehicle on February 23 after the capsule was deemed unsafe for returning astronauts. It arrived at the space station on Saturday.

Working with the Russians

Russian cosmonaut Fedayov joined Crew-6 as part of a shared-ride agreement signed in 2022 between NASA and Roscosmos. The purpose of the agreement is to ensure continued access to the space station by both Roscosmos and NASA: SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules or Russian Soyuz spacecraft used to transport people there can take over joint responsibility if they experience difficulties and are taken out of service. Astronauts from both countries should be brought into orbit.

This flight marked Fedyaev’s first trip into space.

Despite geopolitical tensions fueled by its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russia remains a key U.S. partner on the space station. NASA officials have repeatedly said the conflict has had no impact on cooperation between the nations’ space agencies.

“Space cooperation has a very long history, and we are an example of how people should live on Earth,” Fedayev said during a Jan. 24 press conference.

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Bowen, a 59-year-old NASA astronaut, will serve as commander of the Crew-6 mission.

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

Bowen grew up in Cohasset, Massachusetts and studied engineering, earning a BS in electrical engineering from the United States Naval Academy in 1986 and an MS in marine engineering in 1993 from a joint program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

He completed military submarine training and served in the US Navy before being selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000, becoming the first submarine officer selected by the space agency.

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

“Hopefully my body will retain the memory of 12 years ago so I can enjoy it,” Bowen said of the Crew-6 launch.

SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts pause for a photo after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on February 21: (left to right) Roscosmos astronaut Andrey Fedayev, United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alnyadi and NASA astronaut Warren “Warren” Bowen. (Credit: Kim Shifflett/NASA)

Meet the rest of the Crew-6 team

Hoberg, who serves as the pilot for the mission, is a Pittsburgh native who earned a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, before becoming an assistant professor of aeronautics and aerospace at MIT. He joined NASA astronauts in 2017.

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

But, Hoberg added, “I’m looking forward to my first look at the dome,” referring to the area on the space station that has a large window offering panoramic views of Earth.

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Alneyadi, who in 2019 served as the backup to Hazza Ali Almansouri, the first UAE astronaut to travel into orbit, is now slated to become the first UAE astronaut to remain in space for the longest time.

At a news conference in January, Alneyadi said he plans to bring food from the Middle East to share with his crew while in space. As a trained jiujitsu practitioner, he also wears a kimono, the traditional uniform of the martial art.

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

What do they do in space?

While in space, Crew-6 astronauts will oversee more than 200 science and technology projects, including studying how materials burn in a microbial gravitational environment and analyzing microbial samples collected from outside the station.

During their stay, the crew will conduct two major missions through the space station. The first is a Boeing crewed flight test, marking the first spaceflight under the Boeing-NASA partnership. The flight, scheduled for April, will carry NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams to the space station. It marks the latest phase of a test and demonstration program that Boeing must conduct to certify its Starliner spacecraft for space missions.

Then, in May, a team of four astronauts is scheduled to arrive aboard Axiom Mission 2, or AX-2, a privately funded mission to the space station. That effort, which will deploy a separate SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, will be commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who is now a personal astronaut for the Texas-based space company Axiom.

This includes three paying customers, such as Axiom Mission 1, which will visit the space station in April 2022, including the first Saudi Arabian astronauts to visit the orbiting laboratory. Their seats were paid for by the government of Saudi Arabia.

Bowen said in January that both the Boeing CFD mission and AX-2 would be important milestones.

“This is another paradigm shift,” he said. “Those two events, the big events, in space travel that happen during our wake, and all the other work we have to do, I don’t think we can fully absorb that until after the fact.”

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