SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rumbles out onto Florida launch pad ahead Crew-2 mission next week

SpaceX rolled its 207-foot-long Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, where it is set to take four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) April 22. 

The target launch time from Launch Complex 39A is 6:11am ET, with the rocket reaching the ISS April 23 at 5:30am ET.

The enormous Falcon 9 was rolled to the site horizontally on a massive cart Friday, just a day after NASA and the Elon Musk-owned company received the official ‘go’ to proceed with the Crew-2 mission.

The crew members, NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet, also arrived at the site today to watch the craft make the journey.  

There is  a potential issue with extra oxygen loading into the rocket’s tanks that first needs to be addressed, according to NASA, but previous Falcon 9 missions have been completed with the same setup.

A backup window for the missions has been made available on April 23, with additional options on April 26 and 27.

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SpaceX rolled its 207-foot-long Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, where it is set to take four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) April 22

SpaceX rolled its 207-foot-long Falcon 9 rocket to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, where it is set to take four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) April 22 

The Falcon 9 was rolled out of its horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

SpaceX and NASA got the green light on Thursday to launch the rocket after the completion of a critical flight readiness review. 

Engineers did discover a potential error, in which extra oxygen may be loading into the rocket’s tanks, Space.com reported. 

The Falcon 9 rockets use liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene as propellant. 

The crew members, (from left to right) Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide,, also arrived at the site today to watch the craft make the journey

The crew members, (from left to Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide,, also arrived at the site today to watch the craft make the journey

On Thursday, SpaceX and NASA got the green light for launch after the completion of a critical flight readiness review

On Thursday, SpaceX and NASA got the green light for launch after the completion of a critical flight readiness review

‘We reviewed that with the NASA team today, but we didn’t have enough time to really go over all the data and look at all the consequences of what that could mean,’ said Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability.

SpaceX only recently discovered the problem, but previous Falcon 9 missions have been successfully completed with the same overloading.

Gerstenmaier said that the agency was taking ‘the extra step’ to ensure the situation didn’t pose a risk to the crew or vehicle.

The issue needs to be resolved by Saturday, though, when NASA conducts a ‘static fire’ test, in which the rocket engines are ignited while the vehicle remains on the ground.

Engineers did discover a potential issue with extra oxygen loading into the rocket's tanks, though previous Falcon 9 missions have been successfully completed with the same configuration

Engineers did discover a potential issue with extra oxygen loading into the rocket’s tanks, though previous Falcon 9 missions have been successfully completed with the same configuration

A final launch readiness review is scheduled for April 20 and, if all goes well, Crew-2 will lift off at 6:11am Eastern Daylight Time on the morning of April 22. 

The crew will board the same capsule, Endeavour, that carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from ISS last year for the Demo-2 test flight.

Kimbrough, Hoshide, Pesque and McArthur, who is married to Behnken, are slated to arrive at 5:30 am on April 23 and spend approximately six months aboard the orbiting station.

Their mission marks the first time in over 20 years that astronauts from NASA, JAXA and ESA have flown together.

The four will conduct research on health, medical technology and other fields, before returning some time in the fall.

The issue needs to be resolved by April 17, when NASA will conducts a 'static fire' test, in which the engines are ignited while the vehicle remains grounded. A final launch readiness checkis scheduled for April 20

The issue needs to be resolved by April 17, when NASA will conducts a ‘static fire’ test, in which the engines are ignited while the vehicle remains grounded. A final launch readiness checkis scheduled for April 20

The Falcon 9 (pictured) is expected to launch April 23 at 6:11 am, with Kimbrough, Hoshide, Pesque and McArthur arriving at the ISS at 5:30 am on April 23

The Falcon 9 (pictured) is expected to launch April 23 at 6:11 am, with Kimbrough, Hoshide, Pesque and McArthur arriving at the ISS at 5:30 am on April 23

They will overlap with some of the first astronauts sent up to the ISS on the first Crew Dragon spaceship in November 2020.

In February, an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket missed the landing pad and crashed into the water.

The rocket successfully deployed 60 Starlink internet satellites into orbit, but the booster missed the Of Course I Still Love You droneship in Port Canaveral upon its return and crashed into the ocean.

It was the rocket’s sixth launch, and SpaceX director Benji Reed put the accident down to wear and tear.

‘A little bit of a hole developed and allowed hot gases to be where they’re not supposed to be and caused that engine to shut down,’ he said.

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