Hurricane Ian’s fury has postponed NASA’s plan to send a fresh four-person crew to the International Space Station (ISS) on a SpaceX rocket. The agency announced yesterday that its Crew-5 mission has been pushed back by at least a day and will now launch no earlier than October 4th.
“Mission teams will continue to monitor the impacts of Ian on the Space Coast and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and could adjust the launch date again, as necessary,” NASA said in a blog post. “The safety of the crew, ground teams, and hardware are the utmost importance to NASA and SpaceX.”
The decision comes shortly after NASA made the call to send the Artemis I rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) from the launchpad for safekeeping during the storm. Ian is roaring toward Florida with wind speeds just shy of a Category 5 hurricane.
“The safety of the crew, ground teams, and hardware are the utmost importance”
“[Hurricane Ian] is going to have major, major impacts in terms of wind, in terms of rain, in terms of flooding. So this is going to be a nasty nasty day, two days,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in an update this morning.
The Dragon Endurance spacecraft for the Crew-5 mission will wait out the storm inside SpaceX’s hangar at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. “After the storm progresses, teams from NASA and SpaceX will evaluate the potential impacts to the center and determine whether to adjust the mission timeline further,” NASA said in its blog post.
Its crew — including two NASA astronauts, one Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut, and one Roscosmos cosmonaut — will arrive at Kennedy no earlier than September 30th, according to NASA.
There is a “ride out” team that will stay on-site during Hurricane Ian. But NASA is encouraging its civil servant employees to telework over the next couple of days until there’s an “all-clear” declaration, Kennedy Space Center director Janet Petro said in a briefing yesterday as NASA rushed to prepare its facilities for the storm.
The next earliest window for the Crew-5 mission to launch is now 12:23PM ET on Tuesday, October 4th. There’s another backup window on October 5th. Once the mission is ready to launch, the Dragon Endurance spacecraft will deliver the four-person crew to the ISS, where they are scheduled to spend up to six months conducting research. They’ll be working on projects ranging from efforts to print human organs in space to the study of how fuel systems might operate on the Moon.