Just two minutes from SpaceX’s mission to send four astronauts to the International Space Station early Monday morning, a technical issue forced the launch to be “scrubbed” and postponed until at least Thursday. The problem, involving the engine ignition system, was so severe that there was no time to deal with it before the assigned liftoff. This left the launch team with no choice but to drain the rocket of its fuel, a process that took an hour.
Onboard the Falcon rocket were two NASA astronauts, one Russian cosmonaut, and one astronaut from the United Arab Emirates. Commander Stephen Bowen, who would later be joined by the first UAE astronaut to be assigned to a months-long mission, Sultan al-Neyadi, reassured everyone that they were all feeling good and prepared to wait for another launch window. Neyadi also described the upcoming mission as a “great honor.”
The team explained that the issue lay with the ground equipment used to fill the engine ignition fluid. A SpaceX engineer likened it to the spark plugs of a car, adding that the launch team needed to be sure a full load was present before taking off.
NASA posted the update on Twitter: “Today’s #Crew6 launch has been scrubbed due to an issue with ground systems.”
Once the launch does go ahead, Bowen and his crew will replace the four space station residents who have been up there since October. The new team is ready and looking forward to its mission, waiting for the next launch window to be announced.