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NASA delays commercial crew mission to investigate Falcon 9 engine problem

WASHINGTON – NASA is delaying the launch of the first SpaceX commercial crew operational mission to the first half of November to provide more time to investigate an issue during a recent Falcon 9 launch attempt.

NASA announced on October 10 that the Crew-1 mission, which was to be launched on a Falcon 9 in the early morning of October 31 from the Kennedy Space Center, will be launched no earlier than mid-November.

The delay, the agency said, will provide SpaceX more time “to complete hardware tests and data reviews as the company evaluates the non-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first-stage gas generators observed during a recent attempt to launch of a non-NASA mission “. NASA has not identified the specific launch attempt in question, but the October 2 launch of a Falcon 9 carrying a GPS 3 satellite was canceled just two seconds before takeoff due to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk later described as an “unexpected pressure increase in the turbomachinery gas generator.”


“With the high cadence of missions that SpaceX performs, it truly gives us an incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA Associate Administrator for the agency. exploration and human operations. declaration. He said an investigation into the problem is underway “and we should be much smarter by next week.”

Both the Crew-1 and GPS 3 missions use the new Falcon 9 first stages which have not been launched previously. After the GPS 3 scrub, SpaceX successfully launched another Falcon on Oct.9, 6 carrying 60 Starlink satellites using a booster for its third flight. SpaceX has yet to reschedule the launch of GPS 3.

NASA said the issue with the Crew-1 mission will not delay another launch of Falcon 9, Earth observation satellite Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, scheduled for November 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That mission will also use a new Falcon 9 first stage. Another Falcon 9, likely with a first stage already piloted, will launch a Dragon spacecraft for NASA in late November or early December.

The Crew-1 mission will transport NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, to the International Space Station for a six-month stay. NASA had previously delayed the launch from October 23 to October 31 to provide more time to finish certification work for the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“For this critical launch, we are happy to support NASA and whatever programs they need,” said Hans Koenigsmann, Vice President of Construction and Flight Reliability for SpaceX, at a September 29 NASA briefing on the Crew mission. -1 immediately after the agency announced the delay to October 31st. “We will fly when we are ready to fly”.

The delay will not affect another manned mission to the ISS. The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov is scheduled to launch at 1:45 am Eastern October 14 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, docking at the station three hours after.

The current ISS crew of NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos will leave the station a week later, returning to Earth with the Soyuz MS-16 probe.

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