The “SpaceX Crew-6” mission with UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi in the crew will launch on February 26, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) confirmed in an official update.
The mission liftoff is scheduled from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which is one of the ten field centers of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
SpaceX Crew-6 Mission
The initially planned launch of the Crew-6 mission was expected on February 19, 2023. However, the recent change in plans comes in order to allow Russia to complete a rescue mission that will bring back three astronauts currently stuck in the International Space Station, following a coolant leak on the Soyuz spacecraft which was supposed to bring back the astronauts to Earth.
The SpaceX Crew-6 is the sixth flight of the Crew Dragon 2 spacecraft (called Endeavour) carrying a commercial crew. Apart from Al Neyadi, the crew also includes two astronauts from the United States, Warren Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, and also a cosmonaut, Andrey Fedyaev.
All the other members, except for Stephen Bowen, will be on their first space trip aboard the SpaceX Crew-6. For Bowen, this will be his fourth adventure into space and has already spent over 40 days in space, including 47 hours and 18 minutes logged during his seven spacewalks. Bowen will have the role of Mission Commander, wherein he will bear all the responsibilities during all the flight phases including launch and reentry.
Warren Hoburg will function as the pilot of the spacecraft, wherein his responsibilities include monitoring and controlling the performance and systems of the spacecraft.
Cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev will be the Mission Specialist on board, who will work to monitor the spacecraft during its dynamic launch phase and reentry phase.
Sultan Al Neyadi will serve as a flight engineer on deck. He will spend six months on board the ISS, carrying out various advanced and in-depth scientific experiments on behalf of the “UAE Astronaut Programme”, which aims to prepare and train Emirati astronauts before their space expeditions to the ISS where they will carry out different types of scientific missions.
The involvement of MBRSC in the SpaceX Crew-6 spacecraft mission is part of an agreement between NASA and AxiomSpace, a privately funded space infrastructure development company based in the United States.
Back in 2021, Axiom and NASA reached an agreement to fly Mark T. Vande Hei, a NASA astronaut, onboard the Soyuz MS-18 craft on his way to the ISS onboard the Soyuz MS-19 craft on return, which will help NASA continue American presence within the ISS. As part of the agreement, Axiom received rights to one seat onboard the SpaceX Crew-6 spacecraft, an opportunity that was later transferred to the MBRSC as part of an agreement with the UAESA (United Arab Emirates Space Agency).
Sultan Al Neyyadi was born in Um Ghana, a remote area outside Al Ain, and is a BSc (Hons) graduate in the field of Electronics and Communication Engineering and has also served in the UAE Armed Forces. He also has a master’s degree in the field of Information and Network Security and a Ph.D. in Data Leakage and Prevention Technology.
Al Neyyadi will become the second UAE astronaut to venture into space, following Hazzaa Al Mansoori, who also has the achievement of being the first Arab national to reach space. Al Mansoori was also the youngest UAE national to become an F-16 fighter pilot.
He ventured on his maiden space voyage to the International Space Station on September 25, 2019, onboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, where he spent eight days. He returned safely back on October 3, 2019, onboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft that landed in Kazakhstan.
Space exploration is one key aspect of the UAE’s “Projects of the 50”, which are a series of projects that will transition the country into progress aimed at the next 50 years.
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UAE has already successfully completed the “Emirates Mars Mission” carrying the probe named “Al Amal” (Arabic for “The Hope”). The mission was launched back on July 19, 2020, and successfully entered the orbit of Mars on February 9, 2021. The probe is designed to study the seasonal and daily weather cycles on the planet, as well as collect information on weather events and other data from the lower atmosphere.
There is also the “Emirates Lunar Mission”, which had a successful liftoff back on December 11, 2022. The mission carried the “Rashid” lunar rover, named after the late Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who was the former Vice President and second Prime Minister of the UAE and also the Ruler of Dubai, who played a pivotal role in beginning the transformational journey of Dubai from a small community surrounding the Dubai Creek, to the modernized metropolis we see today. The rover will be landing in the Atlas crater on the Moon onboard the ispace Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander.