NASA officials said Tuesday they are standing down from a cryogenic loading test on the agency’s Space Launch System moon rocket until after the launch of a commercial crew mission from a neighboring pad at the Kennedy Space Center. A countdown test Monday was delayed by what NASA managers characterized as minor issues, including a liquid oxygen temperature concern and a manual valve that was left in the wrong configuration before teams evacuated the SLS launch pad.
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, wrapping up nearly one year in orbit, rode a Russian Soyuz spaceship back to Earth on Wednesday with Russian commander Anton Shkaplerov and flight engineer Pyotr Dubrov. The crew returned home from the International Space Station and landed in Kazakhstan at 7:28 a.m. EDT (1128 GMT).
NASA officials gave the green light Friday for the first all-commercial astronaut launch to the International Space Station on a SpaceX rocket as soon as April 3. But the astronaut launch could be delayed a day, or longer, to give priority to a countdown test for NASA’s Space Launch System moon rocket on a neighboring launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.
Three cosmonauts blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Friday, caught up with the International Space Station after a two-orbit rendezvous and moved in for docking at a newly arrived Russian module. The cosmonauts are replacing three crew members — two Russians and an American — who are heading home at the end of the month to close out a record-setting flight.
An all-Russian crew of three cosmonauts launched Friday at 11:55 a.m. EDT (1555 GMT) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, heading to orbit on a Soyuz rocket to begin a six-and-a-half month expedition on the International Space Station. The trio docked with the space station at 3:12 p.m. EDT (1912 GMT).