UAE astronaut AlNeyadi's return to Earth postponed; new target date revealed

Crew-6 was supposed to undock from the ISS tomorrow, September 2

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Angel Tesorero

/

Kirstin Bernabe

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Published: Fri 1 Sep 2023, 5:38 PM

Last updated: Fri 1 Sep 2023, 11:02 PM

The departure of Crew-6, including UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, from the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed due to unfavourable weather conditions near splashdown sites off the coast of Florida, Nasa and Space X announced on Friday.

The crew was supposed to undock from the ISS tomorrow, September 2.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) on Friday confirmed the postponement.

According to Nasa and SpaceX, the next available undocking opportunity is now no earlier than September 3, Sunday. This means AlNeyadi and his Crew-6 mates — Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev — are expected to come home on Monday, September 4, depending on weather conditions.

The US Space Agency earlier said it was monitoring the impact of Hurricane Idalia across seven potential splashdown sites off the coast of Florida this weekend in time for the return of Crew-6.

Return date

Nasa and SpaceX, provider of Dragon spacecraft Endeavour that will bring Crew-6 back to Earth, are looking at the next available undocking opportunity no earlier than 3.05pm (UAE time) on Sunday, September 3.

The splashdown or landing of Endeavour off the coast of Florida is expected no earlier than 8.07am (UAE time) the following day, Monday, pending weather evaluations.

Mission teams will meet on Friday evening to determine the viability of the next Crew-6 undock target.

Meanwhile, Nasa noted spacecraft Endeavour “remains healthy while currently docked to the space station as Crew-6 prepares for their return trip to Earth completing a nearly six-month science mission in orbit.”

Why there’s a delay

Every human space flight, including Crew-6 return depends on a variety of factors such as spacecraft readiness, recovery team readiness, weather condition, sea states, and other factors.

Mission teams evaluate the weather forecast for the splashdown time and recovery readiness at the primary and alternate splashdown sites to determine if it is a “go” or “no-go.”

"Splashdown locations are selected using defined priorities, starting with selecting a station departure date and time with the maximum number of return opportunities in geographically diverse locations to protect for weather changes. Teams also prioritise locations which require the shortest amount of time between undocking and splashdown based on orbital mechanics, and splashdown opportunities that occur in daylight hours," Nasa explained.

Revised schedule

Should the undocking from ISS happen on Sunday, here’s how Crew-6 return will be (all time stamps are based on UAE time zone, and subject to change depending on operations)

Sunday

  • 1pm – ISS hatch opening and closure
  • 2.45pm – start of undocking from ISS
  • 3.05pm – undocking

Monday

  • 7.15am – Deorbit burn – the firing of the spacecraft engine to enable it to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. This will last around 12 minutes.
  • 8.07 am – Splashdown off the coast of Florida

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