NASA & SpaceX’s Launch Of First Russian Cosmonaut To Space Is Delayed

NASA-SPACEX-CREW-5-ASTRONAUTS
The Crew-5 astronauts, with the NASA astronauts at the top with their Russian and Japanese counterparts at the bottom as part of a collage. Image: NASA

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) have decided to delay their upcoming crewed launch to the International Space Station (ISS), the space agency announced earlier today. NASA sends astronauts to the ISS on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the upcoming mission will mark the fifth operational flight to the space station and the sixth overall after astronauts first took the skies from American soil in 2020. The efforts are part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX currently being the only company capable of conducting the missions as NASA's other partner, The Boeing Company, faces delays with its Starliner spacecraft.

NASA, SpaceX Delay Crew-5 Launch Due To "Extra Traffic" At The ISS

The mission will see NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada alongside the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata and the Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina fly to the skies in the Crew Dragon capsule and onboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. This mission will also be the first time in the Commercial Crew Program's history that a cosmonaut also flies on a NASA spacecraft, with the flight coming at a time when geopolitical tensions between Russia and the United States are high due to the Ukraine invasion.

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This is also a young crew, with astronaut Wakada being the only one who has flown to space before. Apart from him, it will mark Kikina, Cassada and Mann's first spaceflight, with Cassada piloting the spacecraft and Mann being the commander. The other two will make the journey as mission specialists.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program allows the agency to significantly save the costs of sending crew to the ISS, as SpaceX's Dragon is cheaper than its Russian counterpart, Soyuz. A seat swapping agreement with Roscosmos lets the U.S. space agency 'pay' the Roscosmos in the form of a seat for a cosmonaut on an American vehicle instead of a cash payment, with NASA making the payment to SpaceX instead.

Astronaut Cassada during water survival training at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Image: JSC/NASA

To prepare themselves for the mission, the astronauts will have to spend a grueling 18 months in training, which will see them spend their time at NASA's Johnson Space Center, SpaceX's headquarters in California and with other space agencies. This trains them for extravehicular activities, jet flying, spacecraft operations, Russian language and other training.

Their spaceship is the Crew Dragon Endurance which previously flew the Crew-3 mission. It will also mark the first time that SpaceX reuses the Dragon's forward Draco engines on a human spaceflight mission, with the reuse representing both its and NASA's confidence in flight proven space technologies.

The Falcon 9 rocket for this mission will be brand new, and it got into an unfortunate accident late last month when it failed ground clearance for a bridge during transport. This resulted in the forward portion of the rocket coming into contact with an overhead bridge, with reports suggesting that the rocket was improperly secured to its transporter. NASA was quick to clarify that SpaceX had promptly inspected the vehicle and was making the necessary repairs and as of now, the Falcon 9 appears to be ready for its flight.

NASA and SpaceX's Crew-5 mission is now slated to take off no earlier than October 3 at 12:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time. The mission will come roughly a month after NASA's historic Artemis 1 Moon mission which is currently scheduled for coming Monday.

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