A SpaceX flight sending the next group of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has been pushed back a few weeks after the Falcon 9 rocket that was supposed to be used for the trip was damaged in transit.
The SpaceX Crew-5 mission was scheduled to launch in early September but will not operate until September 29 at the earliest, NASA announced. The delay gives Elon Musk Corporation time to repair or replace the damaged hardware and more time to install a new heat shield, parachutes and pod panels on the reusable capsule carrying the astronauts.
“A late September launch will allow SpaceX to complete hardware processing, and mission teams will continue to review the launch date based on the space station’s visit schedule,” the US space agency said in a statement. “Crew-5 launch will now occur following a planned Soyuz undocking and launch period on September 16-30.”
The Falcon 9 rocket was damaged while being transported from SpaceX’s factory in Hawthorne, California, to its test facility in McGregor, Texas. X-ray examinations and load and shock analyzes confirmed that only part of the rocket’s intermediate stage was affected and the rest of the vehicle was fine.
The decision comes as Sandra Magnus, a member of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and a former astronaut, recommended that NASA only reuse SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Astronaut Crew Dragon capsules up to five times each. The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket, the first stage of which, like the Dragon capsule, is reusable after salvage and refurbishment.
“Because both NASA and SpaceX have experience of working together, and SpaceX has accumulated flight history with both the Falcon 9 booster and the Dragon capsule, NASA has thought carefully about reuse and their reuse certification process.” , she said during a panel session this week, SpaceNews reported. “As a result, NASA has determined that it is comfortable with up to five reuses of both the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsules,” she said.
For the Crew 5 mission, the astronauts will board SpaceX’s Dragon Endurance capsule, previously used only once for the Crew 3 mission. The capsule sits on a Falcon 9 rocket; The first stage booster is brand new.
Crew-5 consists of four astronauts, including NASA’s Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos’ Anna Kikina. The first three of this group were originally scheduled to fly to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule on a previous mission, but the spacecraft was grounded last year due to corrosion on its valves. Kikina will be the first cosmonaut to fly to the floating space laboratory in a SpaceX capsule.
NASA and Roscosmos recently signed an agreement to give Russian cosmonauts seats on US space flights in exchange for American astronauts flying to and from the ISS on Russia’s Soyuz. ®