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Space

Bad Weather Delays Space Station Crew's Planned Return To Earth

The 11-member crew aboard the station is actually a combination of three different crews. The four Space Crew-2 astronauts are in the back row. The three-person crew of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship is in the middle row. In the front row, is the SpaceX Crew-1 foursome. Photo: NASA
The 11-member crew aboard the station is actually a combination of three different crews. The four Space Crew-2 astronauts are in the back row. The three-person crew of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship is in the middle row. In the front row, is the SpaceX Crew-1 foursome. Photo: NASA

SpaceX and NASA are waiving off a planned return trip for four astronauts currently on the International Space Station. Bad weather in the splashdown zone off the coast of Florida is reason for the delay.

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi spent the past six months on the station after launching from Kennedy Space Center in November. The Crew-1 astronauts will return to Earth in the same SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that brought them to the station, splashing down in the waters off the coast of Florida.

A planned undocking Friday and splashdown Saturday has been called off following a review of the forecast water conditions in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida. Wind speeds continue to exceed preset conditions for a safe return.

The team will meet again Friday to review future opportunities for a safe return. NASA said the Crew Dragon is in great health.

The Crew-1 capsule has seven possible splashdown locations off the Florida peninsula. NASA and SpaceX select two of these locations as primary targets about two weeks before the return, with decision making on the final zone occurring before the Crew Dragon performs a deorbit burn.

They’re the the first operational crew sent to the station on SpaceX’s capsule under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, a $6 billion effort to launch astronauts from the U.S. using two private companies: SpaceX and Boeing.

Crew-1’s relief crew launched the International Space Station last week on another SpaceX capsule named Endeavour. The Crew-2 astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, ESA’s Thomas Pesquet and JAXA’s Aki Hoshide — will spend six months on board before returning to Earth this fall.

During the crew transition period, the space station had 11 people on board — the most since the end of the Space Shuttle era which prompted NASA to get creative when it comes to sleeping arrangements.

Crew-1 is the first of six operational missions currently contracted by NASA. A mission last May that sent NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the station was a test mission for the program. Crew-3 is currenly scheduled to launch in October.

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