UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi begins longest Arab space mission at ISS; as it happened

After a 24-hour journey from Earth, the Emirati and his Crew-6 mates have reached their new home for the next six months

By Angel Tesorero, Nandini Sircar, and Kirstin Bernabe-Santos

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Published: Fri 3 Mar 2023, 8:24 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Mar 2023, 1:21 PM

[This blog is now closed. Follow Khaleej Times across all platforms — from this website to social media and the print edition — to learn more about this historic space mission.]

UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, who has been cruising in the cosmos with his Crew-6 mates over the last 24 hours, arrived today at the International Space Station (ISS) — his home for the next six months.

After the epic liftoff on Thursday morning, this officially becomes day 1 of the longest Arab space mission in history.

Here are the details on how the crew landed at the orbiting laboratory:

1.05pm: Shukran from Sultan

Speaking in Arabic, AlNeyadi thanked his family, the UAE leadership, MBRSC and the entire UAE gathering as a big family. He added: "The UAE, in cooperation with international partners, is helping in pushing the boundaries of science for the benefit of humanity…Go Dragon, Go SpaceX!"

Zooming into the little big star (which Sultan is holding so it won't float away):

12.55pm: Guess who's the 'star' of the show?

While the 11 astronauts and cosmonauts are preparing for the welcoming ceremony, a cute little 'star' is floating in the middle. Who else could it be? No other than the astronaut stuffed toy Suhail, the 'fifth member' of Crew-6.

Here's a closer look:

12.49pm: 'Sultan of Space' is home

UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi enters the ISS, marking the start of his 6-month mission.

First to ‘float’ into the ISS was Nasa mission commander Stephen Bowen, followed by Nasa pilot Warren Hoburg, then UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

They are warmly received by Expedition 68, led by ISS commander Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev.

12.45pm: Dragon spacecraft's hatch is now open

12.35pm: Bulky suits stowed away

As the crew switched outfits, they had to keep their bulky suits away. Here's AlNeyadi speaking to his colleague while waiting for the hatch to open:

12.15pm: Upside-down preparations

This is how the ISS astronauts are getting ready for Crew-6's arrival:

12.07pm: Getting ready to float into ISS

Crew-6 is now changing into more comfortable suits in preparation for 'floating' inside the ISS.

11.32am: Hatch opening in 45 minutes

The hatch is expected to open in around 45 minutes or 12.10pm (UAE time). The brief welcoming ceremony will follow shortly after between 12.45pm and 1pm.

There will also be an orientation for the Crew-6 members once they are inside the orbital laboratory.

Here's a look inside the station:

11.15am: Getting station ready

The current astronaut-residents of the ISS are busy conducting leak checks before the hatches of both the ISS and Dragon spacecraft are opened for the Crew-6, who will be greeted by the Expedition 68 team.

10.58am: Nasa tweets greeting for the crew

10.54am: Ahlan!

Dragon docking sequence complete.

Ground control welcomes Sultan AlNeyadi and the rest of Crew-6 to the ISS.

"Ahlan Wa Sahlan (Welcome)," the Houston ground station said as they greeted the crew in three languages — Arabic, English and Russian, signifying the multi-national participation in this ISS mission.

10.52am: Hard capture complete

A total of 12 hooks have been driven for docking. The first six were engaged in the soft capture. And the other six were secured in the hard capture.

Here's a clip of how it happened:

10.40am: Docking confirmed

10.40am: Soft capture confirmed

Soft capture confirmed at 10.40am UAE time. Capture ring retraction in progress.

10.39am: Now just 10 metres away

10.35am: Issue fixed!

Visors down. Dragon ready to resume rendezvous with ISS.

10.33am: Quick look

While the issue on hook No. 5 is being resolved, here’s a view of the ISS and Crew Dragon Endeavour. No, they are not floating in space but are actually both orbiting the Earth at 28,000kmph.

On the left is a thermal image of the ISS, taken from the point of view of Crew Dragon (on the right).

10.26am: 94 minutes left

Teams are still working on the faulty sensor of hook 5. They have 94 minutes left to work on the issue. They assured the crew that "they are trying to work it right not just fast".

10.19am: Wondering where the spacecraft will dock?

This is a view of the ISS' Harmony module. At the centre is the zenith where the Dragon spacecraft will dock.

10.14am: More details expected in 10 minutes

Software testing is under way, and more answers are expected in approximately 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the crew is monitoring inside the capsule with no action necessary on their end.

10.09am: Situation explained

In a tweet, SpaceX confirmed that, barring that one faulty hook, everything else looks good.

10.07am: Astronauts on standby

The hook issue is being addressed completely by the ground team. Crew-6 astronauts are currently on stand by — an opportunity for them to enjoy the stunning views from space. They are probably looking at the ISS.

However, they have to remain strapped in, so they cannot get too close to the windows.

10am: No tension at all

While the ground stations are conducting a manual software override, Crew-6 have lifted their visors for now and all four of them relaxed inside the Dragon Endeavour.

9.56am: Two-hour window

The teams on the ground have a two-hour window to fix the issue, according to Nasa.

Flight controllers are reconfiguring the software to make sure that those are in a good configuration, which is very important to secure Dragon's docking at the ISS. Two hours have been set as a margin but it doesn't necessarily mean the process would take that long.

9.52am: Software override

Ground control stations are conducting a software override to correct the anomaly shown by the sensor of one of the Crew Dragon hooks. Vehicle is healthy.

9.47am: Troubleshooting

The ground control team is investigating and troubleshooting the hook alarm. After the issue is resolved this will be the final go before docking.

9.43am: Dragon on hold

Twenty metres away from the ISS, the spacecraft is put on hold to conduct an investigation into a hook switch.

9.42am: Almost there!

Visors down for Crew-6 members as spacecraft enters Waypoint 2.

At the 20-metre point mark, Dragon will make a slow approach.

9.39am: Space station just 60m away

9.36am: Everything is a go!

Mission control team in Houston says it is ready for the arrival of Crew Dragon. Everything is smooth so far.

All systems on board the ISS are functioning fine. Once the docking happens, it will only take a few minutes for the hooks to close to form a mate between Endeavour and Harmony. At this point, leak checks will be conducted for 1.5 hours before hatches are opened to allow the Crew-6 members to board the ISS.

9.33am: Flight control checks cleared

We are all set for the docking procedure. Ground control has finished conducting all flight control checks while Nasa astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada are monitoring the progress of Crew Dragon from the ISS.

Now this close to the lab:

9.26am: 250 metres away!

Dragon is now just 250 metres away from the ISS. That distance is just over 300 human steps on Earth! Let's go, Dragon!

9.23am: Last 20 minutes

The forward end of Dragon is now pointed towards ISS for navigation as the countdown hits the final 20 minutes.

Crew Dragon is orbiting the ISS and the line is not straight but spherical — meaning distance between them varies. Waypoint 1 is when Crew Dragon is 220 metres away from ISS, happening in the next few minutes.

9.17am: Dragon now entering waypoint 1

The Dragon spacecraft is equipped with 16 Draco thrusters used for manoeuvering, orbit adjustment and altitude control. Each Draco thruster is capable of generating 90 pounds of force in the vacuum of space.

9.10am: ISS crew gets ready to welcome Crew 6

Inside the ISS, monitoring Dragon’s approach, is astronaut Josh Cassada, a flight engineer of Expedition 68. His responsibility for this morning is to get right into the action. This is the first item on the ISS for their to-do list for today.

Here's a photo of Josh at work (taken recently during one of his activities on ISS):

Photo Courtesy: Nasa
Photo Courtesy: Nasa

9.01am: Dragon spacecraft now above Dubai!

The spacecraft carrying AlNeyadi and his Crew-6 mates is now cruising above Dubai. Here's an image captured by the ISS.

The ISS and the Dragon spacecraft are now just about 400m apart, which means they are both hovering above the Emirates at this point.

8.58 am: ISS now 45 minutes away

We are now 45 minutes from docking, and everything looks good, In a few minutes, ISS will be passing over the UAE.

8.50am: Dragon zoomed in

Here's ISS view of the Dragon’s nosecone — the aerodynamic, protective top of the spaceship that provides the crew a nice view of space.

The ISS is currently 420km away from Earth, above Germany

8.43am: This is how CLOSE the crew is now to the International Space Station.

Here's a view shared by the ISS. That speck of light? That's the Dragon!

8.37am: Correctional burn done

Crew Dragon Endeavour has completed mid-course correction before it approaches the waypoint 0, or 400metres away from the ISS.

This precise point goes right underneath the station and it swings right out in front and goes above the ISS on the ‘’V Bar’ which is the docking access. They will be swinging up in front and above the station.

8.36am: Check out the 'dashboard'

POV: When you are piloting your way to make space history... Here's a look inside the Dragon spacecraft:

Nasa mission commander Stephen Bowen is on the left hand side and Nasa pilot Warren Hoburg on the right.

Now, the crew will remain strapped to their seats until docking is complete. They are monitoring the docking procedure which is done autonomously.

8.28am: Leak checks complete

No damage was reported on the astronauts' suits during the standard checking procedure.

The suits were brought up to a certain pressure and then allowed to sit up there. Then, the amount of pressure or decay was assessed as per the measurements. The timing of this is very precise.

With this step, the crew can check for any leaks and perform mitigation strategies, if necessary.

8.19am: Suit checks

SpaceX Crew-6 are now conducting suit check, in preparation for docking. The suits are ensured that they are pressurised. In case of cabin depress, the suits will serve as the “last line of defence”.

8.15am: 34 minutes ahead of schedule

The arrival of SpaceX Crew-6 at the International Space Station is ahead of schedule today. The foursome aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour is now due to dock at 9:43am (UAE time), SpaceX tweeted on Friday.

UAE Sultan AlNeyadi and and his Crew-6 colleagues - NASA mission commander Stephen Bowen, NASA pilot Warren Hoburg, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev – lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 9.34am (UAE time) on Thursday.


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