SpaceX successfully puts ISS crew into orbit for the sixth time

The rendezvous with the ISS is expected 25 hours later.
Ameya Paleja
The Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon capsule ready for launch.
The Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon capsule ready for launch.

Minutes after Thursday midnight, SpaceX successfully placed into orbit a four-person crew as they embarked on a six-month mission onboard the International Space Station (ISS). This is the sixth occasion when the U.S. space agency NASA has used SpaceX's services in the past three years.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has been ferrying astronauts and cargo for NASA since May 2020 using its Falcon 9 rocket and a Dragon capsule. Last year, SpaceX was also instrumental in sending an all-private mission to the ISS. For the latest mission, though, the crew consisted of astronauts from the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a Russian cosmonaut.

The launch of Crew-6

The mission was earlier scheduled for launch on the morning of February 27 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, the mission was scrubbed under three minutes from the launch after a blockage was detected in the flow of the engine-ignition fluid. After the mission was aborted, the clogged filter was replaced, the system purged, and preparation began for a launch on Thursday morning, reported Reuters.

At 12:34 am EST (0534 GMT), the nine Merlin engines on the Falcon rocket sprung to life and lifted the 25-story tall space launch vehicle skyward.

Nine minutes later, the lower-stage Falcon booster separated and flew itself back to Earth, where the drone vessel "Just Read the Instructions" was floating in the Atlantic for its recovery.

The rocket's upper stage with the Dragon capsule cruised at Mach 20 as it reached its preliminary orbit. The rendezvous with the ISS is expected to happen 25 hours later in the wee hours of Friday morning.

Onboard the Dragon capsule are two NASA astronauts, crew commander Stephen Bowen, and Warren "Woody" Hoburg. A former submarine officer with the U.S. Navy, Bowen is a space veteran logging 40 days in orbit during his three Space Shuttle flights. Hoburg, 37, is an engineer making his first space flight.

41-year-old UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi is the second person from his country to fly into space and the first from U.S. soil, while 42-year-old Russian cosmonaut, Andrey Fedyaev, completes the four-man crew. Fedayaev, also an engineer, is a mission specialist, and this also marks his first flight in space.

The crew is scheduled to remain at the ISS for a period of six months, where they will conduct 200 experiments in areas ranging from human cell growth to using combustible materials in microgravity.

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