SpaceX’s next human launch is delayed because of a bridge.
A representative of the popular spacecraft manufacturer recently announced that the Falcon 9 rocket meant to bring SpaceX’s crew-5 astronauts was damaged during transport, delaying the company’s next human mission to late September, per Space.com.
NASA is already aware of the damage to the rocket since mid-July, as seen in a NASASpaceflight report. However, the cause of the damage was not officially confirmed outside of media reports until today.
What Damaged The Falcon 9 Rocket?
Benjamin Reed, SpaceX’s senior director of the human spaceflight program, told reporters that the company’s Falcon 9 rocket was damaged when it collided with a bridge while being transported.
Reed mentioned that the rocket’s booster stage was the one that collided with a bridge on the route from SpaceX’s production factory in Hawthorne, California, to its Mcgregor test facility in Texas for stage testing.
Assessment of the rocket’s booster stage revealed that it suffered a “failrly minor incursion” that still caused some damage. This assessment led SpaceX to replace the damaged composite interstage of Falcon 9’s booster stage “and some of the other components on that first stage,” per Reed.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 from left to right, top to bottom :NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.
In addition to repairs, Reed mentioned that the company went through a “very robust process of analysis and tests” on that Falcon 9. It was only during this time that Crew-5 astronauts, namely NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, were informed of the issue and resulting delay.
Mann mentioned in a separate live streamed NASA briefing that the Crew-5 astronauts had some “very transparent conversations” with SpaceX regarding the Falcon 9’s repair and modifications.
She also mentioned that everybody understands that the rocket needs to be reliable and safe and that the Crew-5 astronauts have “full confidence” that NASA and SpaceX will not be putting them on a rocket they are not confident with.
“We want to make sure it’s the safest,” Reed said during the briefing. “We’ve all certified it to be [that way], and that we’re confident in flying the crew members.”
Reed was also present at the NASA briefing.
Crew-5’s New Launch Date
Thanks to the bridge collision, NASA has been forced to delay Crew-5’s launch to the International Space Station in late September, specifically no earlier than Sept. 29, per a separate NASA report.
The launch is crucial as it is the first time a Russian cosmonaut will be flying in an American commercial spacecraft despite the ongoing tensions between NASA and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.
The four astronauts involved in the Crew-5 mission is NASA’s fifth crew rotation flight involving a US commercial spacecraft carrying a crew for a science expedition aboard the microgravity laboratory.