Weather delays Ax-1 return to Earth

(ORDO NEWS) — Bad weather will delay the return to Earth of four private astronauts from the International Space Station, which in turn could delay the launch of the next NASA and ESA astronauts to the station.

The Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft was scheduled to undock from the ISS on April 19 to land off the coast of Florida on the morning of April 20 and complete Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission.

However, on April 18, NASA announced that the undock had been delayed until the evening of April 19, with the launch rescheduled for the afternoon of April 20.

The undocking of the spacecraft threatens further delays. NASA reported April 19 that the agency, working with Axiom Space and SpaceX, has delayed the Crew Dragon launch, again due to weather.

The agency and companies “continue to evaluate the next best opportunity for the return of the first private astronaut mission to the orbital station, taking into account weather conditions and space station operations,” NASA said in a brief statement.

Axiom Space, in a statement, suggested a long delay. “Due to inclement weather conditions for the return, today’s undocking has been canceled and the crew will spend a few more days at the space station,” the company said in an April 19 statement.

Neither NASA nor Axiom Space have said when they think the next opportunity to return to Earth will be. Notices from the Federal Aviation Administration (NOTAM) restrict airspace at several potential landing sites on April 21 and 22.

This return delay could affect the launch of another Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s Crew-4 mission, which is currently scheduled to start on April 23rd.

NASA officials have previously said at least 48 hours should elapse between Ax-1’s descent and Crew-4’s launch to allow time for Crew Dragon’s performance to be tested on return.

“We will have time to conduct analysis between landing and launch of Crew-4, and we will maintain a 48-hour gap between landing and launch to ensure that the recovery team is ready for launch and that we analyze all this data,” Steve Stitch said. , NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager, at a briefing April 15.

“We hope to see many more missions in the future,” said Tom Marshburn, NASA astronaut and station commander, using NASA terminology to refer to private astronaut missions like the Ax-1. “We think we’ve achieved a lot here.”

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