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.
Falcon 9 and Dragon are vertical at Launch Complex 39A; targeting Monday, February 27 for launch of the Crew-6 mission → https://t.co/bJFjLCiTbK pic.twitter.com/uxVohW8V11February 23, 2023
The @SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft for the #Crew6 mission to @Space_Station was rolled out at Launch Complex 39A overnight. More 📷 https://t.co/EE2427KKIY pic.twitter.com/f1Q2Uutu1kFebruary 23, 2023
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.