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Falcon 9 and Dragon are vertical at Launch Complex 39A Image Credit: Twitter/SpaceX

Dubai: The UAE is one step closer to its historic second astronaut mission with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, which will carry Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and his Crew-6 colleagues, being rolled out to the launch pad in Florida on Thursday.

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s spacecraft manufacturer Space Exploration Technologies Corp, on Thursday morning announced that Falcon 9 and Dragon Endeavour were rolling out of the hangar at Launch Complex 39 A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, US.

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“Team is completing pre-flight checkouts and setting up for no earlier than Sunday, February 26 for launch of Starlink; launch of Crew-6, which has priority, is currently targeted for Monday, February 27,” SpaceX tweeted, revealing its priority focus on the Crew 6 mission over its satellite internet constellation.

“If weather and all other aspects of Crew-6 are go, we’ll stand down from Sunday’s launch attempt of Starlink,” it added.

What happens next?

So what happens next in the historic first Arab long-duration astronaut mission by Al Neyadi? Here, Gulf News brings you an overview of the Crew-6 mission in which Al Neyadi, along with the other three crew members, will go to space and come back.

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Sultan Al Neyadi speaks to the media after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center on February 21, 2023 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Image Credit: AFP

Once rolled to the pad and raised to vertical position, the integrated spacecraft and rocket undergoes an integrated static fire test which is scheduled for Friday for the launch attempt on Monday. The static fire test is a vehicle ground test to check the whole pre-flight process and detect any potential issues.

Once it is all clear, there will be a dry dress rehearsal with the crew prior to the launch.

The target launch now is at 10:45am UAE time on February 27. The backup launch dates announced on Tuesday night are February 28, March 2,3 and 4. Closer to the launch date, weather challenges will also be looked into for finalising the lift-off schedule.

Post lift-off

Once lifted off from Launch Pad 39A, Dragon Endeavour will accelerate its four passengers to approximately 17,500mph, putting it on an intercept course with the space station, according to Nasa.

Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, will monitor a series of automatic maneuvers that will guide Endeavour to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module.

After several maneuvers to gradually raise its orbit, Endeavour will be in position to rendezvous and dock with its new home in orbit. The spacecraft is designed to dock autonomously, but the crew can take control and pilot manually, if necessary.

After docking

After docking, Crew-6 will be welcomed inside the station by the seven-member crew of Expedition 69.

Al Neyadi is set to become the flight engineer for Expedition 69 once aboard the ISS.

The astronauts of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission will undock from the space station and splash down off the coast of Florida several days after Crew-6’s arrival.

Crew-6 will conduct new and exciting scientific research to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth. During their stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, Crew-6 will see the arrival of cargo spacecraft including the SpaceX Dragon and the Roscosmos Progress. Crew-6 also is expected to welcome the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts and the Axiom Mission-2 crew carrying two Saudi Arabian astronauts during their expedition.

After 6 months

At the conclusion of the mission after six months, Dragon Endeavour will autonomously undock with the four crew members aboard, depart the space station and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. After splashdown just off Florida’s coast, a SpaceX recovery vessel will pick up the crew, who will be helicoptered back to shore, according to Nasa.