Soyuz MS-23 on Track for Thursday, Crew-6 Delayed to Monday

Soyuz MS-23 on Track for Thursday, Crew-6 Delayed to Monday

NASA and SpaceX decided today to delay the launch of the next Crew Dragon for one day as they continue work on a number of items. The February 26 launch is now set for February 27 at 1:45 am ET. At the same time, NASA confirmed its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, will launch the uncrewed Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft on Thursday evening.

During a media teleconference this evening following the Flight Readiness Review, NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich said launch of Crew-6 on Crew Dragon Endeavour will wait another day because “we’re a little bit behind” getting Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket ready.

The four-man crew arrived at Kennedy Space Center today enthusiatically looking forward to launch. This is the fourth trip to space for Crew-6 commander Steve Bowen, but his first long-duration mission. He flew to the ISS on the space shuttle in 2008, 2010 and 2011, but only for short visits. His three crewmates are all on their first flights: NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg, Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, and United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi.

Alneyadi is the second UAE astronaut on the ISS, but the first on a long-duration mission. His colleague Hazzaa AlMansoori made a short visit on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2019.

Crew-6 arrives at Kennedy Space Center, February 21, 2023, L-R: Andrey Fedyaev (Roscosmos), Sultan Alneyadi (UAE), Warren “Woody” Hoburg (NASA), and Stephen Bowen (NASA). Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Stich listed several outstanding items that remain before the system is cleared for launch, but no showstoppers. If necessary they can launch on February 28, March 2, 3 or 4 instead.

Once Crew-6 is aboard, Crew-5 will return home after a roughly 5-day handover period. Crew-5 is composed of NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.

First, however, Roscosmos will send the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft to ISS as a replacement for the damaged Soyuz MS-22. No one will be aboard. Soyuz MS-22 suffered a coolant leak in December and is not considered safe to return its crew to Earth except in an emergency.

Russia’s Progress MS-21 cargo spacecraft suffered a similar leak last week, but Roscosmos is confident Soyuz MS-23 does not have a common design or manufacturing defect.

Roscosmos announced the Soyuz MS-23 launch date on Saturday, but NASA only confirmed it this evening. NASA TV coverage of the 7:24 pm February 23 Eastern Standard Time launch (3:24 am February 24 Moscow Time) begins at 7:00 pm.

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