SpaceX crewed flight to ISS delayed by damaged rocket • The Register

SpaceX crewed flight to ISS delayed by damaged rocket • The Register

A SpaceX flight that will send the next batch of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has been pushed back a few weeks after the Falcon 9 rocket that will be used for the journey was damaged in transit.

The SpaceX Crew-5 mission was scheduled to launch in early September, but will not proceed until September 29 at the earliest, NASA announced. The delay will give Elon Musk’s group 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 assess the launch date based on the space station’s spacecraft visit schedule,” the US space agency said in a statement. “The launch of Crew-5 now will take place after a scheduled Soyuz undocking and launch period from September 16 to 30.”

The Falcon 9 rocket was damaged while being transported from SpaceX’s factory in Hawthorne, California, to the test facility in McGregor, Texas. X-ray examinations as well as load and shock analysis confirmed that only part of the rocket’s middle stage was affected, and the rest of the vehicle is in order.

The decision comes just as Sandra Magnus, a member of NASA’s Aviation Safety Advisory Panel and former astronaut, recommended that NASA only reuse SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and astronaut shuttle Crew Dragon capsules up to five times each. The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket where the first stage, like the Dragon capsule, can be reused once recovered and refurbished.

“As both NASA and SpaceX have gained experience working together and SpaceX has accumulated a flight history on both the Falcon 9 booster and the Dragon capsule, NASA has thought carefully about reuse and their certification process for reuse,” she said during a panel meeting. this week, SpaceNews reported. “As a result, NASA has determined that they are comfortable with up to five times of reuse for both the Falcon 9 and the Crew Dragon capsule,” she said.

For the Crew-5 mission, space travelers will board SpaceX’s Dragon Endurance capsule, which has only been used once before for the Crew-3 mission. The capsule sits atop a Falcon 9 rocket; its first stage booster is brand new.

Crew-5 consists of four astronauts, including NASA’s Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos’ Anna Kikina. The first three of that group were originally intended to fly to the International Space Station in an earlier mission aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, but the spacecraft was grounded last year due to corrosion of the 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 allocate seats to Russian cosmonauts on American space flights, in exchange for American astronauts flying on Russia’s Soyuz to and from the ISS. ®

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