NASA and SpaceX continue toward October 3 liftoff of Crew-5, but monitoring Hurricane Ian

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Update 8:30 p.m. EDT, Wed., Sept. 28: NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than noon EDT Wednesday, Oct. 5, for the launch of Crew-5 to the International Space Station with a backup date on Oct. 7. Teams continue to monitor the impacts of Ian and may adjust the launch date again, as necessary.

Update 4:20 p.m. EDT, Tues., Sept. 27: NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than 12:23 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 4, for the launch of the agency’s Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station with a backup opportunity on Wednesday, Oct. 5. Mission teams will continue to monitor the impacts of Hurricane Ian and could adjust the launch date again, as necessary.

NASA said on Monday that it is still preparing to support an October 3 launch attempt of its SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station. But the agency continues to closely monitor Hurricane Ian and its impacts on Kennedy Space Center.

A launch at 12:45 p.m. EDT on Monday, October 3 would be a best-case scenario. Senior managers with NASA said during a pre-launch briefing that they have plans in place to allow other Crew-5 launch attempts on October 4 or 5. Other backup options also include October 7, 8, and 9.

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Pre-launch preps

If weather permits, SpaceX is expected to roll out its 230-foot Falcon 9 that has been mated with its Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft to pad 39A on Thursday, September 29.

That would allow for the four international members of Crew-5 to complete a dry-dress rehearsal to practice suiting up and boarding their spacecraft in the days ahead of a launch attempt.

That could change as the path of Hurricane Ian becomes more clear over the next few days. The crewmembers, however, would first need to make it to Florida.

SpaceX Crew-5 astronauts are suited up and ready to participate in a crew equipment interface test (CEIT) at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Aug. 13, 2022. From left are Anna Kikina, mission specialist; Josh Cassada, pilot; Nicole Mann, spacecraft commander; and Koichi Wakata, mission specialist with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 will be the fifth crew rotation mission of the company’s human space transportation system and its sixth flight with astronauts to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's astronaut Koichi Wakata, and cosmonaut  Anna Kikina, from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, were originally slated to land at Kennedy Space Center on Monday, September 26.

That was canceled because of Hurricane Ian's impacts in Florida and the crew remains at Johnson Space Center in Texas.

"These are very disciplined decisions that we are used to making. We'll work hand in hand with Kennedy Space Center to see how the center fares, and then at the right time, we'll bring the crew in," said NASA's Steve Stich, Commercial Crew Program manager.

Aside from weather impacts, Stich said that two other items needed to be closed out by SpaceX before the mission could proceed. A closer look would need to be taken at some of the hardware regarding welds and bonding to some of the composite material of the spacecraft. "I think there's just an abundance of caution on the SpaceX team and good kudos to them for identifying it," said Stich.

KSC prepares for Hurricane Ian

Under the threat of an impending hurricane, Kennedy Space Center operates in conditions called HURCON which ranks from level V to I. The ranks are determined by the anticipated arrival of tropical storm force winds of 58 miles an hour or more.

Kelvin Manning, Kennedy Space Center assistant director, told reporters that the Center had declared HURCON IV on Monday, Sept. 26.

"We’re doing our basic preparation. If we have a significant storm, then we will have a ride-out team," he said. "We're doing things like preparing the ride-out kits — cots, blankets, making sure all the flashlights have batteries. Making sure our generators are fueled, cars are fueled and put in the right position."

In the event that Hurricane Ian poses a significant threat to the Center personnel identified as part of the ride-out team would have to hunker down and ride out the storm at KSC.That would only come into play during HURCON I and KSC would be closed down. "They'll have the ability to go home and prepare their houses and stuff and then return to the worksite in case they have to ride out the storm," said Manning.

For now, however, Manning says personnel is continuing with basic preparations, buttoning up facilities, and securing construction sites.

More involved preparations for possible flooding or wind damage will be conducted as necessary as NASA continues to monitor the progression of the storm. Manning said the team would meet again on Tuesday and determine the path forward.

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Jamie Groh is a space reporter for Florida Today. You can contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @AlteredJamie.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: NASA, SpaceX prepare for Crew-5 liftoff and Hurricane Ian impacts