Four astronauts including UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi have blasted off to the International Space Station for a six-month mission. The international crew are the agency’s sixth commercial crew rotation mission with SpaceX aboard the orbital laboratory.
Crew members assigned to NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission are in orbit following their successful launch to the International Space Station at 12:34 a.m. EST Thursday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, into orbit carrying NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, along with Sultan Alneyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, for a science expedition aboard the space station.
Alneyadi will be making his first trip to space, representing the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center of the UAE. Alneyadi is the first UAE astronaut to fly on a commercial spacecraft. Once aboard the station, he will become a flight engineer for Expedition 68-69.
Speaking about the launch, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said: “Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams for another history-making mission to the International Space Station! The Commercial Crew Programme is proof American ingenuity and leadership in space benefits all of humanity – through groundbreaking science, innovative technology, and newfound partnership. Crew-6 will be busy aboard the International Space Station, conducting over 200 experiments that will help us to prepare for missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, as well as improve life here on Earth. We look forward to seeing all that they accomplish.”
During Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will monitor a series of automatic spacecraft manoeuvres from its mission control centre in Hawthorne, California, and NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight from the Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Once aboard station, Crew-6 will join Expedition 68, consisting of NASA astronauts Frank Rubio, Nicole Mann, and Josh Cassada, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin, and Anna Kikina. For a short time, the 11 crew members will live and work in space together until Crew-5 members Mann, Cassada, Wakata, and Kikina return to Earth a few days later.
Conducting new scientific research, Crew-6 will help prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth. Experiments will include studies of how particular materials burn in microgravity, tissue chip research on heart, brain, and cartilage functions, and an investigation that will collect microbial samples from the outside of the space station.
Kathryn Lueders, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate in Washington, added: “For more than two decades, humans have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station. Commercial Crew Programme missions like Crew-6 are essential so we can continue to maximise the important research possible only in the space station’s unique microgravity environment. Congratulations to the NASA and SpaceX teams on a successful launch! I am looking forward to seeing the crew safely aboard the station.”