SpaceX’s second private astronaut launch and the first fully private crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed again, slipping from April 6th to April 8th.
For unknown reasons, the mission has struggled more than most – far more than any other crewed SpaceX launch since the company’s first – as SpaceX and Axiom Space slowly near each established launch date. Originally, Axiom-1 (Ax-1) was meant to launch as early as late 2021, which eventually became February 21st, 2022. The mission was then delayed to March 30th, April 1st, April 3rd, April 6th, and now April 8th. To date, only one partial explanation for one or two of those delays has been given.
On March 28th, a senior NASA official explicitly stated that they were working with SpaceX to schedule Axiom-1 around a crucial test of the agency’s first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. By all appearances, NASA seems to have chosen to hand SLS the reins for that particular ground test – a test that isn’t particularly time-sensitive. As a direct result, after Axiom-1 suffered a seemingly unrelated delay from April 1st to April 3rd, the same day as NASA’s scheduled SLS wet dress rehearsal, the SpaceX mission was delayed to April 6th to give SLS a wider bay.
Shortly before noon on April 3rd, after beginning the wet dress rehearsal (WDR) process the day prior, NASA’s SLS Ground Systems team announced that the WDR attempt had been scrubbed for the day after an issue with ventilation fans inside pad hardware. NASA plans to try again on April 4th and should wrap up later the same day if the test goes according to plan. A few hours prior, a reliable source for East Coast launch timing removed Ax-1’s April 6th target, indicating that the mission’s latest delay might not be related to the SLS delay, though it’s likely that the initial delay from April 3rd to April 6th was meant to leave a buffer for delays during SLS testing.
Axiom Space did not explain the latest delay in its official update, stating only that “the team is continuing with pre-launch processing work” before vehicle rollout, which is now scheduled to occur on April 5th, two days later than planned. A “dry dress rehearsal” meant to simulate crew and vehicle prelaunch activities and a Falcon 9 static fire test scheduled on April 4th have been delayed to April 6th as a result.
Barring further delays, Axiom-1 is now working to lift off at 11:17 am EDT (15:17 UTC) on Friday, April 8th, allowing Crew Dragon to rendezvous with the ISS around 7:30 am EDT on Saturday.