NASA Delays SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch to November

Pablo Tucker
October 14, 2020

The Crew-1 mission will take NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, as well Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the ISS.

The Crew-1 mission isn't the only NASA mission SpaceX has on the horizon with the Falcon 9 rocket.

As a result, Crew-1 has slipped from placeholder launch dates on October 23rd and October 31st to sometime in "early-to-mid November", while most external sources suggest that a mid-to-late November target is more likely.

The first fully-fledged mission to space, Crew-1, was supposed to take off at the end of the month, but has been pushed to mid-November by what NASA describes as "off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators".

If current dates hold, NASA will have to decide which SpaceX Dragon mission to launch first.

The nine first-stage engines in the Falcon 9 that will launch the Crew Dragon are presumably healthy, but engineers want to make sure they fully understand what caused the October 2 launch abort with a different rocket before pressing ahead with a piloted mission.

SpaceX provides few details about technical problems but in this case, founder Elon Musk tweeted the abort was triggered by an "unexpected pressure rise" in a first-stage engine turbopump mechanism.

NASA associate administrator Kathy Lueders said both the agency and SpaceX were "actively working this finding" and hoped to be a "lot smarter" about the engines within the next week.

'With the high cadence of missions SpaceX performs, it really gives us incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions'.

The engine problems appeared during the firm's October 2 launch that was set to also take a Global Positioning System satellite to space.

More or less a modified version of SpaceX's rapidly maturing Crew Dragon spacecraft, the company says that Cargo Dragon 2 will be "able to carry 50% more science payloads" than the original Cargo Dragon.

Next month's trip to the ISS isn't the only mission that relies on a working Falcon 9 vehicle: The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and SpaceX CRS-21 are targeted for launch in November/December from California and Florida, respectively.

The Crew Dragon will remain docked to the ISS for the full length of the astronauts' stay, which NASA states will last approximately six months.

Much is riding on Crew-1. NASA previously delayed the launch from october 23 to october 31 to provide more time to wrap up certification work of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The Crew Dragon mission was pushed back from October 31 into November, and no new date has been set yet. The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov is scheduled to launch at 1:45 a.m.

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