NASA officials have announced that SpaceX will utilise data from the launch of the joint NASA-ESA Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich climate satellite on November 10 to confirm the Falcon 9 is safe for crewed missions.
The launch of the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon (Crew-1) had initially been slated for October 31. However, concerns over a non-NASA Falcon 9 launch attempt on October 3 that was aborted seconds before liftoff promoted the agency to delay the Crew-1 mission to early-to-mid November.
In a series of tweets posted on October 21, NASA Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Kathy Lueders said that the agency would use data from the launch of the Sentinel-6 climate satellite to determine when to launch the Crew-1 mission.
In addition to announcing that the launch of the Crew-1 mission would not occur earlier than the middle of November, Lueders revealed that one Merlin engine from the Falcon 9 booster assigned to the Sentinel-6 mission and one engine from the booster assigned to the Crew-1 mission would be replaced by SpaceX. Lueders said that both engines had displayed similar early-start behaviour to the engine that tripped up the October 3 launch attempt during testing.
Although it appears that SpaceX and NASA are moving forward, Lueders stressed that the engine testing was still underway in order to better understand the unexpected behaviour.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will carry NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi to the International Space Station (ISS). The crew has continued the tradition started by NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in naming their own spacecraft dubbing their Crew Dragon spacecraft, Resilience.
After a successful rendezvous and autonomous docking with the ISS, Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will join Kate Rubins of NASA, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov for a six-month stay aboard the orbiting microgravity laboratory.