SpaceX delays Crew-8 astronaut launch for NASA to Feb. 28 to make way for private moon mission

SpaceX Crew-8 crew. From left to right: Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick and NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps.
SpaceX Crew-8 crew. From left to right: Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick and NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA's next astronaut launch will delay nearly a week to let a moon mission leave Earth first.

NASA's Crew-8 astronauts, who will launch on a SpaceX Crew Dragon, will fly to space no earlier than Feb. 28. The delay from Feb. 22 will make room for the expected launch of Intuitive Machines' moon lander from the same launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The window for that moon mission, known as IM-1, opens Wednesday (Feb. 14).

"NASA and SpaceX will continue to assess Crew-8 readiness and may adjust the Crew-8 launch date following a successful IM-1 launch," agency officials wrote in a statement on Feb. 13, while announcing the delay. The astronaut mission will serve as relief for Crew-7, which flew to space on Aug. 26 for an International Space Station mission expected to last six or seven months.

Related: SpaceX launches Crew-6 astronaut mission to space station for NASA

Crew-8 includes NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick (commander), Michael Barratt (pilot), and Jeanette Epps (mission specialist), along with Roscosmos cosmonaut and mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin.

Both the ISS crew and the IM-1 launch are using a pad SpaceX leases at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The moon mission has a fairly narrow launch window as the IM-1 lander needs specific landing conditions to land at the lunar south pole, which is part of why the launch date for Crew-8 may be adjusted.

NASA officials previously emphasized that IM-1 may force adjustments to the launch date, perhaps even pushing Crew-8 to March or beyond if the moon mission needs to remain on the pad a few extra weeks.

Barratt is the only veteran in the crew, having flown twice already in 2009 (ISS Expeditions 19-20) and 2011 (the space shuttle's STS-133). 

Epps was assigned to two other space missions, but is unflown; she was removed late in the training from another ISS crew that flew in 2018, and then reassigned to Crew-8 from a Boeing Starliner crewed launch following numerous mission delays

Crew-8, as the name implies, is the eighth crewed operational mission by SpaceX that sends commercial crews to the ISS on NASA's behalf. Starliner, the second vendor, may fly its first test crew in mid-April 2024.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: