Dubai: NASA today confirmed that the Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station, which includes UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi on the longest Arab space mission, is a ‘Go’ for tomorrow, March 2.
NASA also confirmed that the agency and SpaceX traced the ‘TEA-TEB’ ignition glitch that forced to ‘scrub’ (delay) the first launch attempt on Monday to a ‘clogged filter’ and SpaceX got it replaced.
These announcements came on Wednesday morning after NASA and SpaceX completed a launch readiness review, weather briefing, and mission management meeting of the Crew-6 mission on Tuesday.
NASA confirmed that the launch is targeted at 12:34am EST (9:34am GST) Thursday, March 2, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The first launch attempt at 10:45am UAE time on Monday was scrubbed about two and a half minutes before lift-off after the ignition glitch was detected.
“Mission teams stood down from a February 27 launch attempt to review an unusual data signature related to confirming a proper bleed in of pad supplied fluid known as triethylaluminum triethylboron [TEA-TEB)],” said NASA.
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What is TEA-TEB?
TEA-TEB is an ignition fluid used to start the Falcon 9 rocket’s nine first-stage kerosene/liquid oxygen Merlin engines. The bleed-in process ensures there is an adequate supply of this fluid at each engine to mix with liquid oxygen to start the engines.
During pre-launch, the TEA-TEB fluid – which originates in a ground supply tank – flows to the rocket’s interface and back to a catch tank to remove gas from the ground plumbing. During engine start, the fluid then flows to the engines for ignition. Flow into the catch tank is one of several parameters used to determine that the fluid has been properly bled into the system, explained NASA.
Clogged filter replaced
After a thorough review of the data and ground system, NASA and SpaceX determined that there was a reduced flow back to the ground TEA-TEB catch tank due to a clogged ground filter.
“This clogged filter fully-explained the signature observed on the launch attempt. SpaceX teams replaced the filter, purged the TEA-TEB line with nitrogen, and verified the lines are clean and ready for launch,” stated NASA.
95% favourable weather
Weather officials with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron continue to predict a 95 per cent chance of favorable weather conditions for Crew-6 launch, with the ‘flight through precipitation rule’ serving as the primary weather concern.
“Conditions along the Dragon ascent corridor are within acceptable limits, but will remain a watch item for Thursday’s attempt,” it was announced.
24.5-hour space transit
Primary crew and mission specialist Al Neyadi, along with NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, mission commander, and Warren Hoburg, pilot, Roscosmos cosmonaut and mission specialist Andrey Fedyaev will travel to the space station for a science expedition mission.
The international crew will fly aboard the Dragon spacecraft named Endeavour, which previously flew NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2, and Axiom Mission 1 astronauts.
After an approximate 24.5-hour transit, the crew will dock to the space-facing port of the microgravity laboratory’s Harmony module about 1:17am (10:17am GST) Friday, March 3.
Hatch opening is targeted for approximately 3:27am., followed by the welcome ceremony about 3:40am. Arrival coverage on NASA TV and the agency's website begins Thursday, March 2, at 11:30 pm (8.30am GST on Friday).
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai will also broadcast the launch of the longest Arab space mission in Arabic.
“We are just a few hours away from the launch of the longest Arab space mission in history,” MBRSC tweeted with the details of the live coverage on its website that begins at 6am on Thursday here.
“With every moment that passes, the excitement mounts and ambition grows,” it added.
Safety first, ready for challenges: Al Neyadi
Meanwhile, responding to Monday’s launch scrub, Al Neyadi had said in a tweet that “A launch scrub is one of the things that we are trained to do, as crew safety is always a priority.”
He had also joked saying: “I promised my kids to return soon and I didn’t mean this soon!”
“Anyway, our crew is safe and our spirits are high,” he added.
On Wednesday morning, he also posted a verse from a poem written by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
“On a trail we tread where feet cannot reach, and rough terrain emerges, I relish the challenge to breach,” the translation of the verse said.
Al Neyadi shared an image of himself in the spacesuit sporting the UAE flag and the logo of the UAE Mission 2 in the post, which was taken while he was looking outside from atop the rocket before heading inside the Dragon capsule on Monday, with the verse that he used to symbolise his willpower to take on the challenges.