SpaceX launched the Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station on Thursday, sending four astronauts to the ISS, including Sultan al-Neyadi, the first person from the Arab world to stay in space for an extended month-long mission. The launch took place at the Kennedy Space Center at midnight and was watched by 80 spectators from the United Arab Emirates. Al-Neyadi is the second Emirati to fly into space, and the launch was broadcast live in Dubai and other parts of the UAE.
The Crew-6 mission includes NASA’s Stephen Bowen, a retired Navy diver with three space shuttle flights, Warren “Woody” Hoburg, a former research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Andrei Fedyaev, a retired Russian Air Force pilot. After a successful takeoff on the third attempt, the Falcon rocket lit up the night sky as it headed eastward.
The launch was initially scheduled for last Sunday but was delayed twice due to technical issues. The first delay was caused by additional thermal analysis of the capsule’s exterior panels and a check of some helium canisters on the Falcon 9 rocket. The second delay occurred less than three minutes before liftoff when a problem in the TEA-TEB flow was detected.
SpaceX launch control radioed “Welcome to orbit” after the successful launch, noting that it had been four years since the capsule’s first orbital test flight. They also jokingly asked the astronauts to give them a five-star rating. The Crew-6 mission is expected to arrive at the space station on Friday.