On Mar. 2, at 5:34 am UTC, the SpaceX Crew-6 mission took off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket; their destination is the International Space Station.
Liftoff of Crew-6! pic.twitter.com/BucEYeIIFe— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 2, 2023
Now in orbit, the crew and SpaceX Mission Control are monitoring a series of automatic maneuvers that will guide the Endeavour spacecraft toward the ISS’s Harmony module. This vehicle is designed to dock autonomously, but the crew can take control and pilot it manually if needed.
The previous launch attempt, on Feb. 27, was scrubbed due to a technical problem with the Falcon 9 rocket.
In particular, NASA said that the concern was “an issue preventing data from confirming a full load of the ignition source for the Falcon 9 first stage Merlin engines, triethylaluminum triethylboron (TEA-TEB)”.
The RP1 (kerosene)/liquid oxygen mixture is more difficult to ignite and requires more energy. In addition, the fuel cannot be allowed to accumulate in the combustion chamber and ignite all at once. In this case, TEA-TEB is injected with the oxidizer, which causes ignition. The last time a problem with TEA-TEB caused a scrub for SpaceX was during the SES-8 mission in November 2013, and it hasn’t come up again until now.
The flight is the sixth crew rotation mission with SpaceX to the ISS and the seventh crewed flight of a Dragon capsule for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (including the Demo-2 test flight).
During their six-month mission, the crew will conduct more than 200 experiments and technology demonstrations including new scientific research to prepare for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth.
Those experiments will include studies like SoFIE-MIST. It will examine how particular materials burn in microgravity, to help scientists evaluate the inflammability of materials that will be used in future space missions, improving the design of vehicles and facilities.
With ISS External Microorganisms, the crew will collect samples outside the space station, during the spacewalks, to find out if the spacecraft releases microorganisms.
This research could help determine whether modifications to manned spacecraft are needed to limit any contamination from Earth during future exploration missions.
The astronauts will carry out “Immunity Assay“, an investigation by the European Space Agency (ESA), using a functional immune test to monitor how spaceflight stressors affect cellular immune functions.
This experiment will be carried out for the first time in space with a new device that could provide a clearer assessment of immune changes that occur in flight.
Crew-6 will welcome the astronauts of the Boeing Crew Flight Test and the Axiom-2 Private Mission.
They will also be involved with the arrival of some cargo spacecraft including SpaceX’s Dragon and Roscosmos’ Progress.
Stephen Bowen is serving as Mission Commander; in this position, he is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry.
This will be his fourth spaceflight after three Space Shuttle missions: STS-126 in 2008, STS-132 in 2010, and STS-133 in 2011.
He has logged more than 40 days in space, including seven spacewalks with a total duration of 47 hours.
Bowen was selected as an astronaut candidate in July 2000 and became the first submarine officer at NASA.
Warren Hoburg is the Pilot and is responsible for spacecraft systems and performance.
This is his first flight since his selection as an astronaut in 2017.
He has a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Hoburg worked as an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT where his research focused on efficient engineering system design methods.
Sultan Alneyadi is serving as Mission Specialist.
He will be the first UAE astronaut to fly on a commercial spacecraft and the first UAE astronaut assigned to a long-duration mission to the ISS.
The United Arab Emirates Space Agency (MBRSC) participation is a result of a 2021 agreement between NASA and Axiom Space to fly a NASA Astronaut onboard Soyuz MS-18 to ensure a continuing American presence on the ISS (the seat had been purchased by Axiom Space and later turned over to NASA).
In return, Axiom Space received a NASA-owned seat onboard SpaceX Crew-6 and provided the flight opportunity to an MBRSC astronaut.
Andrey Fedyaev is the second Mission Specialist working to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight.
He was selected in 2012 during the first open recruitment for the Roscosmos’ cosmonaut corps.
Fedayev holds an engineering degree in air transport and Air Traffic Control from the Balashov Military Aviation School and logged more than 500 hours in Russian aircraft.
This is his first space mission and his presence onboard a SpaceX spacecraft is part of the Soyuz-Dragon exchange system aimed at maintaining at least one NASA Astronaut and one Roscosmos Cosmonaut on each of the crew rotation missions.
*All Crew pictures credits are due to NASA.
The crew rotation
The astronauts of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission will undock from the space station and splash down off the coast of Florida several days after Crew-6’s arrival.
Crew-5 members are Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada of NASA, Koichi Wakata of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Anna Kikina of Roscosmos State Space Corporation (Roscosmos).