SpaceX CRS-6 Launch Set for April 13

CRS-5 Dragon Awaits Launch :  Image Credit S. Money

SpaceX’s next launch, the CRS-6 re-supply mission to the International Space Station, has been moved to Monday, April 13th at 4:33 PM EDT. It has previously been listed as “No Earlier Than” (NET) April 10th on NASA’s launch calendar. No explanation has been given for the change.

Following the launch of the DSCOVR spacecraft on February 11, and the dual payload ABS 3A/Eutelsat 115 West B mission on March 1st, SpaceX had originally intended to keep up the rapid tempo with a March 21st liftoff for a communications satellite for Turkmenistan. A geostationary transfer mission, the spacecraft was built by Thales Alenia Space, which also booked the flight.

The sequence changed when quality assurance inspections revealed a possible problem with a batch of helium pressurization tanks which may haven been common with those on the next flight vehicle.  After initially delaying the Turkmenistan launch for one week until March 28th, that launch has now been further delayed while SpaceX and NASA focus on the CRS-6 mission. Still waiting in the wings, a critical pad escape test for the Commercial Crew version of the Dragon spacecraft.

An on-time launch for the CRS-6 mission will see the cargo laden Dragon arrive at ISS on April 15th. If the split second launch is delayed, another opportunity is available on Tuesday, at 4:10 PM.

As part of the CRS-6 launch, SpaceX will once again attempt to land the Falcon 9 first stage on its Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. The most recent attempt, which would have taken place during the DSCOVR launch, was called off due to severe weather. Despite the circumstances, which included a more dynamic atmospheric re-entry due to the demands of a first ever SpaceX mission to deep space, the Falcon 9 first stage still managed to find its way to a precise target on the Atlantic Ocean, hovering successfully for moment before joining so many other rockets somewhere at the bottom of the sea.

Moving into what is a milder part of the year, and with ample daylight available for both imaging and recovery operations for a launch which will be less demanding on the first stage than accompanied the last effort, the CRS-6 mission appears to offer the most favorable odds to date.

Posted in: NASA, SpaceX

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