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SpaceX Crew-8 launches after tense discovery of crack on hatch seal

Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Science & Technology News

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER — Overcoming concerns about a small crack in the hatch, SpaceX launched another four passengers on their way to the International Space Station late Sunday from Florida’s Space Coast.

About 30 minutes before liftoff, SpaceX mission control alerted the crew to a potential problem.

“We saw a small crack on the side hatch seal at the top of the hatch,” mission control reported. “The main concern is reentry heating soaking through a damaged seal.”

But just over 10 minutes before launch, mission control updated, “We are confident that we understand the issue, and we can still fly the whole mission safely.”

The gap created by the crack in the seal, which was determined to be about 0.2 inches, was expected to close as the material swells on reentry, SpaceX said, adding that it was in a place that won’t be as stressed upon return to Earth.

“The engineering team here is comfortable proceeding,” SpaceX noted in a statement. After the launch, NASA weighed in on who has the final call on whether or not to launch.

 

“Absolutely NASA has the authority to stop the launch and if we see a course of action that we don’t necessarily think is right,” said NASA Commercial Crew Program manager Steve Stich. “The clock is counting but you know, we could have backed out at any point on down inside of in a minute.”

With the OK to go, the Crew-8 mission proceeded, sending three NASA astronauts and one Roscosmos cosmonaut aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour that launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from KSC’s Launch Pad 39-A at 10:53 p.m. The rocket carved its way up through the night sky amid the pinpoint lights of the Big Dipper as a backdrop.

At liftoff, the roar of the engines rumbled off the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, setting off car alarms at KSC’s press site. As the rocket climbed higher, its plume created an eerie, billowing, multicolor jellyfish nebula.

The first-stage booster returned eight minutes after launch for a landing at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, pounding out a sonic boom that echoed across the space center, set off even more car alarms and sparked the din of birds calling out in the distance.

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