SpaceX launches Crew-6 to the ISS

The launch of Crew-6 was supposed to happen on February 27 but hit a roadblock.

SpaceX launches Crew-6 to the ISS
NASA's SpaceX Crew-6 mission, that includes NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg, Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, astronaut Stephen Bowen and the United Arab Emirates' Sultan Al-Neyadi, depart for the launch pad before launch to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., March 1, 2023. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

The backstory: SpaceX's Crew Dragon has been competing with Boeing's Starliner to launch crewed spacecraft under NASA's Commercial Crew program. While Boeing's Starliner capsule has had costly delays, SpaceX has worked hard to optimize the Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon capsule. Space X has had nine successful crewed launches overall since 2020.

More recently: The Crew-5 team, which includes astronauts from America's NASA, Japan's JAXA and Russia's Roscosmos, has been up on the International Space Station (ISS) since last October and is preparing to head back home in about a week after being relieved by the Crew-6 team.

The launch of Crew-6 was supposed to happen on February 27 but hit a roadblock when there was an issue with the rocket's propellant ignition fluid. They were able to pinpoint the problem to a clogged filter.

The development: On Thursday, SpaceX successfully launched the four space cadets to the ISS on the Crew-6 mission after fixing the issue, completing a seamless 24-hour journey. So far, SpaceX has sent 34 astronauts to space on both government-funded and privately-chartered missions. This diverse group of space explorers, including two Americans, one Russian and one Emirati, will conduct experiments and research and maintain the almost 23-year-old space station during their six-month stay in orbit.

Key comments:

"Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams for another history-making mission to the International Space Station!" said NASA administrator Bill Nelson. "The Commercial Crew Program is proof American ingenuity and leadership in space benefits all of humanity – through groundbreaking science, innovative technology, and newfound partnership."

"I'm really proud of the team — that they worked through a tough issue in the last part of the count and made the right decision to step down, better understand the issue, and then fix it," said Kathy Lueders, NASA's associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate, in a press conference after the launch. "We ended up with a beautiful launch."

"After a brief scenic detour, welcome to the International Space Station," said David Hwang, a crew communicator in SpaceX Mission Control.