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NASA, SpaceX Delay Crew-1 Mission Due To ‘Off-Nominal Behavior’ From Falcon 9


  • NASA and SpaceX’s crewed mission has been delayed to November
  • The agency cited “off-nominal behavior” from the Falcon 9’s engine
  • The delay can provide more time to ensure the mission’s safety

NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-1 has been delayed due to “off-nominal” behavior from the Falcon 9.

It was in May when NASA and SpaceX successfully launched astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS), marking the first time that American astronauts launched from American soil in nearly a decade. But that successful mission was just a demonstration and the first actual crewed operational flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft, the Crew-1 mission, was set for a late October launch following several delays.

But on Oct. 1, NASA released a statement on the Crew-1 mission, noting a new target of “no sooner than early-to-mid November.” The agency cited “off-nominal behavior” from the Falcon 9’s first stage engine gas generators during a recent non-NASA mission.

Although the agency did not specify which mission this was, it was just last Oct. 2 when the Falcon 9 launch set to carry a GPS 3 satellite was scrubbed just two seconds before liftoff. An earlier Falcon 9 Starlink launch was also scrubbed with just seconds before liftoff although it was later successfully launched on Oct. 6, SpaceNews reports.

“NASA and SpaceX will use the data from the company’s hardware testing and reviews to ensure these critical missions are carried out with the highest level of safety,” the agency said in the statement.

Meanwhile, another launch set to use the Falcon 9, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, is still scheduled for Nov. 10.

No matter when the launch will take place, NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission remains the same, with the plans to send NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, as well as the Japan Aerosoace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Soichi Noguchi to the ISS aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft aptly dubbed Resilience.

“The Crew-1 mission is a major step for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program,” NASA said in the statement. “Operational, long duration commercial crew rotation missions will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station.”

Meanwhile, the other mission under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, is set for a 2021 launch. When it launches, it will have an all-NASA crew after astronaut Chris Ferguson stepped down from the mission just last week on Oct. 7.

The Crew Dragon capsule is seen atop a Falcon 9 rocket on May 24, 2020 The Crew Dragon capsule is seen atop a Falcon 9 rocket on May 24, 2020 Photo: SPACEX / –

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NASA delays commercial crew mission to study Falcon 9 engine issue

WASHINGTON — NASA is delaying the launch of the first operational SpaceX commercial crew mission to the first half of November to provide more time to review a problem during a recent Falcon 9 launch attempt.

NASA announced Oct. 10 the Crew-1 mission, which was scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 in the early morning hours of Oct. 31 from the Kennedy Space Center, will now launch no earlier than early to mid-November.

The delay, the agency said, will provide more time for SpaceX “to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt.” NASA did not identify the specific launch attempt in question, but an Oct. 2 launch of a Falcon 9 carrying a GPS 3 satellite was scrubbed just two seconds before liftoff because of SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk later described as an “unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator.”

“With the high cadence of missions SpaceX performs, it really gives us incredible insight into this commercial system and helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions,” Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in the agency statement. She said an investigation into the problem is ongoing “and we should be a lot smarter within the coming week.”

Both the Crew-1 and the GPS 3 missions are using new Falcon 9 first stages that have not previously launched. After the GPS 3 scrub, SpaceX successfully launched another Falcon 9 Oct. 6 carrying 60 Starlink satellites using a booster making its third flight. SpaceX has yet to reschedule the GPS 3 launch.

NASA said the issue with the Crew-1 mission will not delay another Falcon 9 launch, of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Earth observation satellite, scheduled for Nov. 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That mission will also use a new Falcon 9 first stage. Another Falcon 9, likely with a previously flown first stage, will launch a cargo Dragon spacecraft for NASA in late November or early December.

The Crew-1 mission will transport NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, to the International Space Station for a six-month stay. NASA previously delayed the launch from Oct. 23 to Oct. 31 to provide more time to wrap up certification work of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“For this critical launch, we’re happy to support NASA and any schedule that they need,” Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said at a Sept. 29 NASA briefing about the Crew-1 mission just after the agency announced the delay to Oct. 31. “We will fly when we are ready to fly.”

The delay won’t affect another crewed mission to the ISS. The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov is scheduled to launch at 1:45 a.m. Eastern Oct. 14 from the Baikonur