NASA has announced that it has delayed the commercial crew mission slated for the first half of November to give SpaceX time to investigate an engine issue that happened during a recent Falcon 9 launch attempt. NASA announced the delay yesterday, October 10, only weeks ahead of the planned October 31 launch at Kennedy Space Center.
The launch will now happen no earlier than mid-November. NASA says the delay will allow SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data review while evaluating the “off-nominal behavior” of the Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators. The less than ideal behavior of the engine was observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt.
While NASA didn’t specify which mission it was talking about, the assumption is the October 2 Falcon 9 launch that was scrubbed two seconds before liftoff. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described the incident that led to the scrubbing of that launch as an unexpected pressure rise in the turbomachinery gas generator. NASA says that the high mission cadence SpaceX performs gives the agency “incredible insight” into the commercial system and allows it to make informed decisions about the status of missions.
NASA’s Kathy Lueders says that the investigation of the problem is ongoing stating, “we should be a lot smarter within the coming week.” NASA’s Crew-1 mission and the aborted GPS 3 mission were both using new Falcon 9 first stages that hadn’t flown before. SpaceX recently launched a Falcon 9 on October 6 that carried 60 new Starlink satellites into orbit. That launch used a Falcon 9 first stage that had flown three times. No other SpaceX missions have been delayed. SpaceX VP Hans Koenigsmann says, “we will fly when we are ready to fly.”