NASA orders rare medical delay in launching SpaceX mission to space station

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands on the launch pad behind photos of crew members on the countdown, as final preparations are made for the Crew 3 mission to the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral . Florida, United States, October 29, 2021. The launch is scheduled for October 31. REUTERS / Joe Skipper

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Nov. 1 (Reuters) – NASA on Monday announced a rare health-related delay in its SpaceX rocket launch from four astronauts to the International Space Station, the second postponement of the mission in a week, citing a medical problem with one of the crew members.

NASA said the problem was “not a medical and unrelated COVID-19 emergency,” but the space agency declined to specify the nature of the problem or to say which astronaut was involved.

The launch, originally scheduled for Sunday but postponed until Wednesday due to inclement weather conditions, has now been rescheduled for Saturday evening, NASA said.

The last time NASA delayed a planned launch for a medical issue involving the crew was for a space shuttle Atlantis flight in 1990, when mission commander John Creighton fell ill. The countdown was interrupted for three days until it was cleared to fly, according to NASA.

This delay was followed by two additional postponements related to weather conditions.

The SpaceX-built vehicle slated to fly this weekend, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule perched atop a double-decker Falcon 9 rocket, is now scheduled for takeoff at 11:36 p.m. Saturday (0336 GMT Sunday) from Kennedy Space NASA Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

If all goes well, the three American astronauts and their European Space Agency (ESA) teammate will arrive 22 hours later and dock with the space station 400 km above Earth to begin a science mission of six months aboard the orbiting laboratory. .

For now, the four crew members will remain in routine quarantine in Cape Town as they continue preparations for the launch, NASA said.

German astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51, an ESA mission specialist, joins the three NASA mission astronauts – flight commander Raja Chari, 44, mission pilot Tom Marshburn, 61, and mission specialist Kayla Barron, 34 -.

Chari, a US Air Force fighter and test pilot, Barron, a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer, and Maurer, a materials science engineer, make all their first space flights aboard the Dragon vehicle, called Endurance.

Marshburn, a physician and former NASA flight surgeon, is the most experienced astronaut on the crew, having recorded two previous space flights and four spacewalks.

Saturday’s liftoff, if successful, would count as the fifth manned spaceflight SpaceX has completed to date, following the inaugural September launch of a space tourism service that sent the very first fully civilian crew into orbit.

The latest mission would mark the fourth crew NASA sent to the space station with SpaceX in 17 months, building on a public-private partnership with the rocket company formed in 2002 by Musk, founder of electricity maker Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O).

Reporting by Joe Skipper in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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