SpaceX Launches 6th Commercial Crew Program Mission, Carrying Historic UAE Astronaut
SpaceX launched a crew of four astronauts to the International Space Station on Thursday, March 2, 2023. The crew includes two Americans, Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, the United Arab Emirates Sultan Al-Neyadi, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. The launch came after the first attempt was called off earlier in the week due to a ground systems issue.
The mission will be SpaceX's sixth Commercial Crew program mission and the first to carry a person from the United Arab Emirates on a long-term mission. Al-Neyadi will also become the first Arab astronaut to spend an extended stay on the space station.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft is carrying a complement of miniature Starlink satellites, the first of their kind, which have four times the communication capacity of earlier generations of Starlink satellites. The Starlink V2 Mini satellites are an intermediate step between SpaceX’s original Starlink satellite design and an even larger spacecraft platform SpaceX plans to deploy using its new-generation Starship rocket.
The Falcon 9 rocket roared to life above the Florida Space Coast, lighting up the early morning sky as it lifted the crew to the orbital lab. Shortly after spacecraft separation, pilot Warren “Woody” Hoburg radioed back to SpaceX's flight control center, exclaiming, “As a rookie flyer, that was one heck of a ride. Thank you! It was an absolute miracle of engineering, and I just feel so lucky I get to fly on this amazing machine.”
The goal of the mission will be to carry out scientific investigations, develop new technology, conduct tests, and perform maintenance and upgrades to the International Space Station. More than 200 experiments and technology demonstrations will be conducted by the crew, such as researching the behavior of materials in microgravity and collecting microbial samples from the exterior of the space station.
The Crew-6 mission marks the ninth crewed Dragon flight for NASA and the ninth time the vehicle is taking humans to orbit. The mission is commanded by veteran NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen who has logged more than 40 days in orbit as a veteran of three space shuttle flights and seven spacewalks. The crew is expected to return from their six-month mission in the fall.
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