The launch, which was set for Wednesday, has now been moved to Saturday night.
NASA has announced a rare, health-related delay in its SpaceX rocket launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station, the second postponement of the mission in a week, citing an unspecified medical problem with one of the crew.
NASA said Monday that the problem “was not a medical emergency and not related to COVID-19,” but the space agency declined to elaborate on the nature of the problem or say which astronaut was involved.
The launch, which was originally set for Sunday but then postponed to this Wednesday due to unsuitable weather conditions, has now been rescheduled for Saturday night, NASA said.
The last time NASA delayed a scheduled launch due to a medical problem involving the crew was for a space shuttle Atlantis flight in 1990, when Mission Chief John Creighton fell ill. The countdown was stopped for three days until he was approved to fly, according to NASA.
This delay was followed by two more weather-related delays.
The SpaceX-built vehicle to be flown this weekend, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule placed on top of a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, is now set to depart at 6 p.m. 23:36 on Saturday (03:36 GMT on Sunday) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
If all goes well, the three American astronauts and their crew members from the European Space Agency (ESA) will arrive 22 hours later and dock with the space station 400 km above Earth to embark on a six-month scientific mission aboard the orbiting laboratory. .
So far, the four crew members will remain under routine quarantine at the Cape while continuing launch preparations, NASA said.
Along with the mission’s three NASA astronauts – Air Force Chief Raja Chari, 44, mission pilot Tom Marshburn, 61, and mission specialist Kayla Barron, 34 – German astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51, is an ESA mission specialist.
Chari, a fighter and test pilot from the U.S. Air Force, Barron, a submarine officer and nuclear engineer from the U.S. Navy, and Maurer, a materials science engineer, all make their debut in spaceflight aboard the Dragon spacecraft, called Endurance.
Marshburn, a physician and former NASA flight surgeon, is the most experienced astronaut of the crew who has logged two previous spaceflights and four spacewalks.
Saturday’s launch, if successful, will count as the fifth human spaceflight SpaceX has achieved to date, following its initial launch in September of a space tourism service that sent the first civilian crew ever into orbit.
The latest mission will mark the fourth crew that NASA has flown to the space station with SpaceX in 17 months, based on a public-private partnership with the rocket company formed in 2002 by Musk, founder of electrical manufacturer Tesla Inc.