The U.S.is set to resume launching astronauts into space Saturday, for the first time on a private rocket, almost a decade after the last launch of astronauts from American territory.
The first attempt was aborted because of bad weather, with fewer than 17 minutes remaining on the countdown clock to launch. The mission, a demo flight, is meant to validate the crew transport systems that were tested on the initial unmanned crew demo launch.
The launch pad is the same one used by NASA's final space shuttle flight, piloted by Hurley, in 2011.
While the launch is still scheduled to go ahead on Saturday, forecasters have once again said the weather puts their chances of launch around 50/50. As you might remember from Wednesday, the next crucial step is propellant load into Flacon 9, the rocket carrying the Crew Dragon capsule. This will make scheduled space runs, such as trips to the International Space Station for both crew and cargo, more affordable. While there's occasionally a little tension between NASA and SpaceX, "he gives me a commitment and he delivers on that commitment".
The Demo-2 launch would mark the first time a private company put astronauts into orbit, with the craft coming from Tesla founder Elon Musk's SpaceX program and launching in partnership with NASA.
Should the launch be scrubbed for a second time, however, there's already a back-up plan to try again tomorrow (Sunday, May 31) at 3:00 p.m. EST. Behnken and Hurley will then spend a number of weeks aboard the ISS before another commercial crew can come and replace them. The duration of the astronauts' stay on the orbiting space lab is yet to be determined.
At 12:25 p.m. EDT, May 27, 2020, SpaceX's crewed Demo-2 launch stood ready for lift-off, with significant cloud visible near Launch Complex 39A. NASA and SpaceX have been preparing for this mission for two years now.
Setting the time of day of launch involves the sleep cycle of the crew, making sure they're not in a critical portion of the flight when they've been awake for 24 hours. Pad 39A has a storied history in the annals of US space travel, serving as the launchpad for the first moon landing in 1969 and numerous Apollo missions afterward.