New SpaceX launch date set after Sultan Al Neyadi mission postponed

Nasa to attempt a second blast-off on Thursday

Powered by automated translation

Nasa has set a new launch date for the SpaceX rocket carrying Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi after Monday's blast-off was postponed.

The Crew-6 mission from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station is provisionally scheduled for 9.34am UAE time on Thursday.

The mission on Monday was called off at 10.42am UAE time — two and a half minutes before the Falcon 9 rocket's engines were due to ignite.

Nasa and SpaceX said there was an issue with ground systems, which they are investigating.

Officials said the weather in Florida on Tuesday is not expected to be favourable, hence the delay.

The new launch plan is subject to the technical issues being resolved, the space agency said.

“I’m proud of the Nasa and SpaceX teams’ focus and dedication to keeping Crew-6 safe”, said Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson.

“Human space flight is an inherently risky endeavour and, as always, we will fly when we are ready.”

Engineers have a narrow window for missions to ensure that the rocket has a short and safe journey from Earth to ISS, which is 400km above sea level.

The crew of four — Russia's Andrey Fedyaev, Nasa's Warren Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, and Dr Al Neyadi — remained on the rocket for about two hours after the launch was called off, or “scrubbed” in Nasa terms, while fuel was pumped out.

They safely got off the Dragon capsule that is attached to the rocket.

Mission call-offs are common in the space industry, though scrapping a flight so close to blast-off is relatively rare.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, delivered a message of support to Dr Al Neyadi and his fellow astronauts after their mission was delayed.

“The launch has been postponed, yet our ambitions remain high”, Sheikh Hamdan wrote on Twitter.

“Wishing a safe and successful mission to Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and the entire Crew-6 team”.

UAE's space centre chief shares how long-duration mission became a reality

UAE's space centre chief shares how long-duration mission became a reality

Dr Al Neyadi will spend six months aboard the ISS in what will be the Arab world's longest space mission.

He shared an uplifting message on social media on Monday morning, before lift-off was postponed.

“On this planet, I leave behind everyone I love and take off to space … I leave behind a country that has forged its way to stars and lit its path with Zayed’s Ambition …

“I leave you all behind until we meet again from space … Your brother, Sultan Al Neyadi”.

The UAE's latest space traveller received an outpouring of support from across the Emirates.

On Sunday, he spoke to President Sheikh Mohamed, who wished him well as he prepared to etch his name in the record books.

“Everyone is excited and waiting for this historic moment, your Highness”, Dr Al Neyadi told the President in a video conversation shared by news agency Wam.

“As science continues to progress and develop, God willing, the UAE will leave an important mark on this mission.”

Sheikh Mohamed said: “May God protect you wherever you may be and may you return safe and sound. We are looking forward to your return.”

Dr Al Neyadi was the first of two astronauts selected by the UAE in 2018.

His colleague Hazza Al Mansouri became the first Emirati in space the following year.

Maj Al Mansouri spent eight days aboard the International Space Station.

Both have been training since then around the world, including in Russia, parts of Europe, Canada and Japan, and have completed Nasa's basic astronaut training programme.

Dr Al Neyadi will be carrying out 19 science experiments for various UAE universities, several other experiments assigned by Nasa and doing maintenance work on the ISS, including a possible spacewalk.

In May, he will be joined by two Saudi astronauts, including the first Arab woman in space. Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni are heading to the ISS for a 10-day trip.

Dr Al Neyadi said last Tuesday that flying on the mission will be a “privilege”.

“I can't believe that this is really happening and you only realise that when you fly by the launch pad where you see the preparations,” he said.

“It's becoming real. So, we can't thank enough everybody that helped and prepared us for this mission.

“I think we are ready physically, mentally and technically. And we can't wait to launch to space and conduct the mission.”

Updated: February 27, 2023, 2:48 PM