Bad weather halted the historic SpaceX rocket launch, which was set to be the first time a private company sent humans into orbit. While also being the first time in a decade that the U.S. launched astronauts into orbit from American soil.
Veteran NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley were prepared to launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A at 4:33 p.m. aboard the brand-new Dragon capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket.
The planned backup dates for the mission known as Crew Dragon Demo-2 are Saturday at 3:22 p.m. EDT and Sunday at 3 p.m. EDT. The weather for both backup dates stands at 60% “go,” according to the Space Force’s latest forecast.
The former space shuttle astronauts went through the paces for their mission, including a traditional breakfast of steak and eggs, suit-up at the historic Operations and Checkout Building and a 20-minute ride to pad 39A in two Tesla SUVs.
Severe weather brought wind, rain and lightning to the Space Coast throughout the day Wednesday, leading to a tornado warning and a weather advisory hours before the planned launch.
Because the capsule has to intercept the International Space Station about 250 miles overhead, the capsule needed to launch at 4:33 p.m. Wednesday.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, at least half a dozen current and former astronauts and other VIPs were at the space center to witness the historic launch.
When the liftoff occurs, it will mark the beginning of a roughly 19-hour journey to the orbiting outpost, where astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are waiting to help open Crew Dragon’s hatch. Once there, Behnken and Hurley will spend one to four months on board, depending on the demonstration mission’s needs.
During their journey to the ISS, Vega said, the astronauts will have two opportunities to manually pilot Crew Dragon if schedules allow. One will be a “far-field” attempt from the space station, and the second will be much closer – about 720 feet from the ISS.
The manual flying will give Behnken and Hurley a chance to use the touchscreens and take over from the computers, giving them real-world experience outside the simulators they’ve used until this point.
“Doug is ready for anything all the time. He’s always prepared,” Behnken, an Air Force colonel, said last week of his co-pilot and longtime friend. “When you’re going to fly into space on a test mission, you couldn’t ask for a better person or a better type of individual to be there with you.”
Hurley, meanwhile, said Behnken has “every potential eventuality already thought about five times ahead of almost anybody else.”
“There’s no question I can ask him that he doesn’t already have the best answer to. It’s such an asset to have somebody like that on the crew with you,” the retired Marine Corps colonel said.
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