Dubai: March 2 has been set as the new target date for the lift-off of the UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi’s Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after the scheduled launch on Monday was called off due to a “technical issue” just two minutes before blast-off.
NASA and US billionaire Elon Musk’s spacecraft manufacturing company SpaceX ‘scrubbed’ Monday’s launch due to a “ground systems issue”. Scrubbing refers to calling off a rocket launch for a later day.
After the postponement of the longest Arab space mission, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, tweeted a message of support and motivation.
“The launch has been postponed, yet our ambitions remain high. Wishing a safe and successful mission to Emirati astronaut @Astro_Alneyadi and the entire Crew-6 team. #ZayedAmbition.”
Sheikh Hamdan had flown in to the Mohammed bin Rashid Centre’s ground station to watch the historic lift-off to ISS, which was scheduled at 10.45am UAE time, from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida, USA.
However, the mission teams “decided to stand down to investigate an issue preventing data from confirming a full load of the ignition source for the Falcon 9 first stage Merlin engines, triethylaluminum triethylboron [or TEA-TEB],” NASA explained.
NASA and SpaceX decided to forgo the next launch opportunity on Tuesday, February 28, due to an unfavourable weather forecast.
When is lift-off time?
The next available launch attempt will be at 9.34am UAE time (12.34am EST) on Thursday, March 2, “pending resolution of the technical issue preventing Monday’s launch”, the two agencies announced.
“I’m proud of the NASA and SpaceX teams’ focus and dedication to keeping Crew-6 safe,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Human spaceflight is an inherently risky endeavour and, as always, we will fly when we are ready,” NASA quoted Nelson as saying.
On Monday, hours of excitement in the lead up to the launch changed to moments of uncertainty when the ignition system malfunctioned due to suspected “ground control anomaly”. Prior to that, Commander Stephen Bowen had confirmed it was a ‘Go’ for propellant launch at around 9:50am.
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Around the same time, Al Neyadi’s Twitter account shared an emotional post in which he said: “On this planet, I leave behind everyone I love and take off to space…I leave behind a country that has forged its way to stars and lit its path with Zayed’s Ambition…I leave you all behind until we meet again from space... Your brother, Sultan Al Neyadi.”
Al Neyadi also spent a few moments with his family members just before boarding a Tesla vehicle to the launch pad. He was seen being playful and giving fist bumps to his children.
All four crew-members underwent the pre-launch traditions that included leaving the quarantine quarters in designated vehicles, looking up at the rocket (which is known as the ‘astro lean’), and signing on the White Room wall before accessing the capsule. They rode the 255-storey tower elevator to the access arm and entered the capsule and completed the final preparations before launch.
All of them remained calm and comfortable even after the launch was cancelled. They exited the Dragon spacecraft for crew quarters after SpaceX completed the removal of propellant from the Falcon 9 rocket.
“Both the Falcon 9 and Dragon are in a safe configuration,” SpaceX confirmed.