Weather is one thing everyone has been keeping a close eye on ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The first launch attempt on May 27 was rescheduled due to unfavorable weather conditions around Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With the launch now targeted for 3:22 p.m. EDT tomorrow, May 30, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine remains hopeful for tomorrow’s launch, but stressed the importance protecting the test flight crew members, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
“Our highest priority is and always has been Bob and Doug. And of course, a couple of days ago, we had too much electricity in the atmosphere,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during a press briefing at Kennedy on May 29. “This is certain though: We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and we will do it with the absolute priority being the safety of our astronauts.
“The president and vice president were proud of the NASA team and the SpaceX team for making the right call for the right reasons. When we do this again Saturday, if we do this again Sunday, we will feel no pressure. We will go when we are ready.”
The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for tomorrow’s launch, with the primary concerns for launch revolving around flight through precipitation, anvil and cumulus clouds.
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who flew on a Soyuz rocket in 2015, also participated in the press briefing, touching on his own experience with delayed launches.
“You certainly get excited about the launch; you’re prepared, your mindset is such that you’re ready to fly, and certainly Bob and Doug were ready to do that on Wednesday,” he said. “The scrub, the delay, just represents an opportunity for the team to learn and is an opportunity for them to reunite with their families. I know they’re spending time with their families and enjoying this little bit of time before they get ready to fly again.”
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, carrying Behnken and Hurley to the space station to join astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner – the Expedition 63 crew members already onboard – making this the first launch of NASA astronauts from American soil in nearly a decade.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with partners SpaceX and Boeing to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and other destinations in low-Earth orbit.
“I can’t tell you what it’s going to mean to me to see a U.S. rocket launching crews again off that pad out there,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “We went to the Moon from that pad; I launched three times off that pad. To see Bob and Doug launch off it, and then to get Boeing launching, we are on the verge of a new era in human spaceflight. This is just the beginning; it’s only going to get better.”
NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 will be the company’s final flight test, providing critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule, as well as the ground systems at the launch pad that will be supporting the launch. NASA and SpaceX teams will review data from all stages of launch, from liftoff to in-orbit, docking and landing operations – all paving the way for the agency to certify the crew transportation system for regular, crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory.
“What Elon Musk has done for the American space program is, he has brought vision and inspiration that we hadn’t had since the retirement of the space shuttles,” said Bridenstine. “When I talk to him, when I meet with him, he gives me a commitment and he delivers on that commitment. That has happened every single time.”
“We started out as a partnership, and in many respects, it’s become a friendship,” added NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.
Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 30, NASA and SpaceX will provide coverage of launch activities, airing on NASA TV and the agency’s website. This will include live shots of Behnken and Hurley as they put on their spacesuits, their arrival at historic Launch Complex 39A and liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket. Coverage will continue through Crew Dragon’s docking to the space station, scheduled for 10:29 a.m. EDT on Sunday, May 31.