(CNN) SpaceX and NASA launched a fresh crew of astronauts on a mission to the International Space Station, beginning a roughly six-month stay in space.
The mission — carrying two NASA astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates — lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 12:34 a.m. ET Thursday.
Crew Dragon, the vehicle that carries the astronauts, offline from the rocket after reaching orbit, and it is expected to spend about one day maneuvering through space before docking with the space station. The capsule is scheduled to dock at 1:17 a.m. ET Friday.
Thursday’s launch marked the second attempt to get this mission, called Crew-6, off the ground. The first launch attempt was prompted on Monday by what officials said was a clogged filter that
During launch broadcast, officials had reported that ground systems engineers made the decision to abort the launch with less than three minutes on the clock. The engineers said they discovered a problem with a substance called triethylaluminum triethylboron, or TEA-TEB, a highly flammable liquid used to ignite the Falcon 9 rocket’s engines at launch.
The problem occurred during the “bleed-in” process, which is meant to ensure that each of the Falcon 9 rocket’s nine engines will be fed enough of the TEA-TEB liquid when it’s time for ignition. The problem occurred when the liquid moved from a storage tank on the ground to a “capture tank,” according to NASA.
“After a thorough review of the computer and ground system, NASA and SpaceX determined that there was a reduced flow back to the ground TEA-TEB capture tank due to a clogged ground filter,” according to a NASA update posted on its website early Wednesday .
The clogged filter explained the anomaly engineers had seen on launch day, NASA said.
“SpaceX team replaced the filter, purged the TEA-TEB line with nitrogen and confirmed that the lines are clean and ready for launch,” the post said.
Everything about this launch
This mission marks the seventh astronaut flight SpaceX has conducted on behalf of NASA since 2020, and continues the public-private effort to keep the orbiting laboratory fully staffed.
The Crew-6 team on board includes NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, and first-time aviator Warren “Woody” Hoburg, as well as Sultan Alneyadi, who is the second astronaut from the UAE to travel to space, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev .
Once aboard the space station, Bowen, Hoburg, Fedyaev and Alneyadi will work to take over operations from the SpaceX Crew-5 astronauts who arrived at the space station in October 2022.
They are expected to spend up to six months aboard the orbiting laboratory, conducting science experiments and maintaining the two-decade-old station.
The mission comes as the astronauts currently on the space station have struggled with their own transport problem. In December, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that had been used to transport cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio to the space station sprung a coolant leak. After the capsule was deemed unsafe to return the astronauts, Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, launched a replacement vehicle on 23 February. It arrived at the space station on Saturday.
Working with the Russians
Russian cosmonaut Fedyaev joined the Crew-6 team as part of a joint venture agreement signed in 2022 between NASA and Roscosmos. The agreement aims to ensure continued access to the space station for both Roscosmos and NASA: Should either the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule or the Russian Soyuz spacecraft used to carry people there experience difficulties and be taken out of service, the other party can manage to get astronauts from both countries in orbit.
This flight marks Fedyaev’s first mission to space.
Despite ongoing geopolitical tensions spurred by the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russia remains America’s primary partner on the space station. NASA officials have repeatedly said the conflict has had no impact on cooperation between the countries’ space agencies.
“Space cooperation has a very long history, and we are setting an example of how people should live on Earth,” Fedyaev said during a Jan. 24 news briefing.
Bowen, the 59-year-old NASA astronaut who will serve as Crew-6 mission commander, also weighed in.
“I’ve been working and training with the cosmonauts for over 20 years now and it’s always been amazing,” he said during the briefing. “When you get to space, there’s only one crew, one vehicle, and we all have the same goal.”
Raised in Cohasset, Massachusetts, Bowen studied engineering, earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the United States Naval Academy in 1986 and a master’s degree in marine engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in 1993.
He also completed military submarine training and served in the US Navy before being selected for NASA’s astronaut corps in 2000, becoming the first submarine officer selected by the space agency.
He previously completed three missions between 2008 and 2011, under NASA’s Space Shuttle program, logging a total of more than 47 days in space.
“I just hope my body retains the memory of 12 years ago so I can enjoy it,” Bowen said of the Crew-6 launch.
Meet the rest of the Crew-6 team
Hoburg, who is serving as the pilot for this mission, is a Pittsburgh native who completed a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, before becoming an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. He joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2017.
“We’re going to be living in space for six months. I think back to six months ago and think — OK, that’s a long time,” Hoburg told reporters of his expectations for the trip.
But, Hoburg added, “I’m really looking forward to the first look beyond the dome,” referring to the familiar area of the space station that has a large window with a panoramic view of Earth.
Alneyadi, who served as backup in 2019 to Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, the first UAE astronaut to travel into orbit, is now set to become the first UAE astronaut to complete a long-term stay in space.
At a news conference in January, Alneyadi said he planned to bring food from the Middle East to share with his crewmates while in space. As a trained jiu-jitsu practitioner, he will also pack a kimono, the martial art’s traditional uniform.
“It’s hard to believe that this is really happening,” Alneyadi said at a news conference after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center on February 21. “I can’t ask for more from a team. I think we’re ready – physically, mentally and technically.”
What they will do in space
During their time in space, the Crew-6 astronauts will oversee more than 200 science and technology projects, including investigating how some substances burn in the microgravity environment and examining microbial samples that will be collected from outside the space station.
The crew will host two other key missions that will stop at the space station during their stay. The first is the Boeing Crew Flight Test, which will mark the first astronaut mission under a Boeing-NASA partnership. Scheduled for April, the flight will carry NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams to the space station, marking the final phase of a test and demonstration program Boeing needs to complete to certify its Starliner spacecraft for routine astronaut missions.
Then, in May, a group of four astronauts is scheduled to arrive on Axiom Mission 2, or AX-2 for short—a privately funded space flight to the space station. This initiative, which will deploy its own SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, will be headed by Peggy Whitson, a former NASA astronaut who is now a private astronaut with the Texas-based space company Axiom, which brokered and organized the mission.
It will also include three paying customers, similar to Axiom Mission 1, which visited the space station in April 2022, including the first astronauts from Saudi Arabia to visit the laboratory in orbit. Their seats were paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Both the Boeing CFT mission and the AX-2 will be major milestones, Bowen said in January.
“It’s another paradigm shift,” he said. “The two events — huge events — in space travel that happen during our increment, on top of all the other work we get to do, I don’t think we’re going to be able to fully absorb that until afterward.”