Crew-5 takes off on time, with a hair’s breadth scare just for good measure

It only takes a hair to stall a space mission.
Stephen Vicinanza
SpaceX Crew-5 Endurance rocket lifting off
SpaceX Crew-5 Endurance rocket lifting off

Launch 

The SpaceX Crew-5 mission launched at exactly noon Eastern Standard Time from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida USA. It took 12 minutes to reach orbit, traveling at more than the speed of sound.

The Dragon Crew

The Crew-5 flight crew was manned by NASA Astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina. They are set to dock with the International Space Station on October 6, 2022, at 4:57 pm EST, about 29 hours after launch.

Crew-5 takes off on time, with a hair’s breadth scare just for good measure
Astronauts on SpaceX Crew-5 Mission NASA

The rocket itself was a SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft that launched from a Falcon 9 booster, which will make a round trip back to Earth.

Prelaunch routine

NASA provided coverage of the launch activities for several hours, as the crew climbs into their seats and waited for the final connections and preflight tests to be performed. The ground teams reviewed the status of the Falcon 9 recovery ship, called Just Read the Instructions, which is ready to support booster recovery.

Some concerns during prelaunch

The SpaceX teams also successfully replaced a thrust vector control actuator on one of the nine Merlin first recovery engines. They also repaired a small leak on a portable fire extinguisher system inside the Dragon capsule. Both of these issues were discovered during prelaunch verification checkouts and ensured the best systems are in place to support crew launch.

Weather officials with the US Space Force 45th Weather Squadron continued to predict a greater than 90% chance of favorable weather, as the skies remained cloudless and blue, all morning. Usually, the main concerns from the weather are cumulus clouds and precipitation.

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There was a social media link and NASA officials, and SpaceX ground team members took questions from the thousands watching the launch live on NASA TV and YouTube.

Questions from the social media crowds

One of the questions was What can the astronauts take into space and keep on the space stations? The reply was - Small items, like pictures or keepsakes, there was even a Dream Catcher that one of the astronaut's daughters had made. They would be able to bring these things to the video calls the astronauts would have with family members waiting back on Earth.

There was even a slight scare during prelaunch.

It was just a hair that nearly stalled the mission

In the Dragon capsule, the teams that check the astronauts and the systems are called the closeout team. The closeout teams set the umbilical's or the life support lines that connect the astronaut to oxygen, heat, and cooling systems. The closeout team made a leak check, and everything seemed fine. They departed the module. They then did an overall check of the surface of the module at the seals to the hatch and around the small port on the side of the Dragon. Finally, they sealed the hatch and ran a leak test, and got a warning. The system had found something in the seal. They reopened the hatch while everyone waited with bated breath, to see if the mission would be scrubbed. The closeout team found a hair, lodged in the main hatch seal. They removed the hair and cleaned the seal and resealed the hatch. The entire operation took about twenty minutes, time which was allotted already to unforeseen happenstance, and then the countdown resumed.

At 11:50 am, the last of the second stage propellant was loaded, and at exactly noon, SpaceX Crew-5 Endurance rose into the sky and headed for the international space station.

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