SpaceX rolls out rocket for NASA's Crew-6 astronaut launch (photos)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-6 Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft rolls to Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida for a Feb. 27, 2023 launch.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-6 Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft rolls to Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida for a Feb. 27, 2023 launch. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's rocket ride for its next NASA astronaut launch from Florida is on the pad and ready for flight. 

Topped with a Crew Dragon capsule, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rolled out of its hangar at Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral late last Wednesday and was hoisted into launch position Thursday morning (Feb. 23), SpaceX said. Liftoff is set for Feb. 27 at 1:45 a.m. EST (0645 GMT). 

"Falcon 9 and Dragon are vertical at Launch Complex 39A; targeting Monday, February 27 for launch of the Crew-6 mission," SpaceX wrote on Twitter alongside a series of photos of the rocket and capsule on the launch pad. 

SpaceX's Crew-6 mission will launch NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg to the International Space Station alongside Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos and United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi. The four men will launch aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour, which is making its fourth flight after flying SpaceX's Demo-2 crew test flight in 2020, Crew-2 flight in 2021 and the private Axiom Mission-1 flights that followed. Crew-6 is SpaceX's seventh crewed mission for NASA (including the Demo-2 demonstration flight) under the agency's commercial crew program, and the company's ninth human spaceflight overall. 

On Friday (Feb. 24), the Crew-6 astronauts and launch controllers will conduct a dress rehearsal for their Feb. 27 liftoff. SpaceX is also expected to perform an engine static fire test of the Falcon 9 on Friday, NASA mission managers have said.

The sun rises behind SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour and Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center for Crew-6 after the launch vehicle's arrival at the pad on Feb. 23, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The launch preparations for Crew-6 come as Roscosmos prepares to launch an empty Soyuz MS-23 crew capsule to replace the damaged Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft currently docked at the space station. Soyuz MS-22 suffered a coolant leak in December that has left the capsule unsafe to return its crew of three — NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin— back home as planned. Four other astronauts make up the rest of the station's current crew.

Soyuz MS-23 will launch tonight to replace the stricken MS-22 vehicle and serve as a lifeboat for the stranded Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin. The three men will return to Earth in September, six months later than planned, due to the spaceship swap.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is planning to launch another Falcon 9 rocket this weekend to deliver a new flock of Starlink internet satellites into orbit. That mission is currently scheduled for no earlier than Sunday, Feb. 26, at 1:12 p.m. EST (1812 GMT). SpaceX has said it could postpone the Starlink launch to give priority to its Crew-6 astronaut launch. 

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.