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SpaceX’s Crew-4 launch postponed due to weather

Crew-4 astronauts (left to right) Jessica Watkins, Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Samantha Cristoforetti at a dry dress rehearsal on April 19, 2022. Image via Flickr/ SpaceX.

Coverage set for Crew-4

The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Crew-4 astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed from Saturday, April 23, 2022, to no earlier than Tuesday, April 26. According to NASA, weather considerations factored into the decision to postpone. In addition to a possible Tuesday launch, there will be launch opportunities Wednesday, April 27, and Thursday, April 28.

Viewers can follow the mission’s countdown and launch online on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. There will also be continuous coverage of the subsequent docking, hatch opening, and welcoming ceremony. For more information, schedules, and links to livestreams, visit nasa.gov/live. Photo and video footage of the launch will be made available by NASA shortly after liftoff.

Once off the ground, a crew of four astronauts will rocket on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon capsule, nicknamed Freedom, will spend about 22 hours in orbit before arriving at the space station. Meanwhile, on Earth, the Falcon 9’s first stage is likely to land on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions shortly after liftoff.

Kathy Lueders, who leads NASA’s human spaceflight program, tweeted the following update on April 21:

Mission objectives

Crew-4 is the fourth crew to launch as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It’s also the fifth SpaceX flight with NASA astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight to the ISS back in 2020.

The Crew-4 team includes mission commander Kjell Lindgren, pilot Bob Hines, and mission specialist Jessica Watkins, all of NASA. From the European Space Agency is Samantha Cristoforetti, also a mission specialist. All four will stay onboard the station for at least six months. It will be the first visit for Hines and Watkins, and the second for Lindgren and Cristoforetti.

The quartet’s work in orbit will drive scientific research for several experiments; two geared toward understanding human health in space. One study could further the development of artificial retinas used for restoring vision. Here, the microgravity environment helps improve the quality and stability of implants. A portable device called rHealth will be employed to analyze cells and diagnose health anomalies in astronauts.

Separately, the team will work on growing plants without soil, using hydroponic (liquid-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques. A successful result could help passengers on long-duration space missions grow provide their own sources of nutrition.

Crew-4; A tall, white piece of machinery stands upright with a huge cloud of white smoke trailing away from it. Green trees and a body of water are in the foreground.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during a static fire test on April 20, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image via NASA/ Aubrey Gemignani.

In the meantime …

The Crew-4 astronauts donned their spacesuits and spent Tuesday completing a full rehearsal of launch day activities. Then on Wednesday morning, SpaceX filled the Falcon 9 rocket with kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants for a test-firing of the first stage’s Merlin main engines. The engines fired for about seven seconds as hydraulic clamps kept the 215-foot-tall (65-m) rocket on the ground. Nothing appeared awry, but engineers continue to review data and ensure all rocket, spacecraft, and ground systems functioned as expected.

Bottom line: The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Crew-4 to the International Space Station has been postponed from April 23, 2022 to no earlier than April 26. According to NASA, the decision was made based on bad weather.

Read about Crew-3 from EarthSky


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