Kennedy Space Center – A highly anticipated crewed launch to the International Space Station was delayed Monday after engineers discovered an issue with the engine ignition system of a Space-X Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 is a reusable booster rocket that was set to propel two American astronauts into orbit along with an Emirati astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut.
After arriving at the Kennedy Space Center six days before Monday’s launch date, the four-person crew, known as “Crew-6,” underwent final training for their six-month mission while in a routine preflight quarantine.
A little more than three hours before the scheduled launch, Mission Commander Stephen Bowen, Pilot Woody Hoburg, and Mission Specialists Sultan Alneyadi and Andrey Fedyaev emerged smiling from Nasa’s historic Operations and Checkout building. Dressed in modern white space suits designed by NASA partner SpaceX, the crew waved to family members and colleagues who had turned out to say goodbye and wish them well on their mission.
As the crew headed to the three waiting Teslas that would take them to the launch pad, they stopped briefly to talk with those who had come to say goodbye and wish them well on their six-month mission. Family members were not allowed to hug the crew members, as pre-launch procedures required the crew to maintain a sterile environment.
By two hours before launch, the astronauts and cosmonaut were sealed in their Crew Dragon module, known as Endeavour. The countdown for the scheduled 1:45 AM launch continued smoothly until T-minus two minutes twenty-eight seconds when controllers halted the count due to a problem with data readings from the Falcon 9’s ignition system. A few minutes later, officials announced the problem could not be resolved, and the launch was scrubbed. SpaceX removed propellant from the Falcon 9 rocket, and the astronauts exited the Dragon spacecraft and returned to the astronaut crew quarters.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson commented on the scrubbed mission: “I’m proud of the NASA and SpaceX teams’ focus and dedication to keeping Crew-6 safe. Human spaceflight is an inherently risky endeavor, and, as always, we will fly when we are ready.”
SpaceX has flown several Falcon 9 boosters multiple times each over the past few years. However, this was to be the maiden flight of the booster used for this mission. The booster had undergone a successful test firing on the day before the launch attempt.
As of press time, NASA has scheduled another launch attempt for 12:34 a.m. EST Thursday, March 2, pending resolution of the technical issue preventing Monday’s launch.