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SpaceX and NASA are at the cusp of achieving a historic milestone – the resumption of human spaceflights from the continental United States after the space shuttle program ended back in 2011. The Demo-2 test flight is all set to propel two NASA astronauts into space using the Crew Dragon vehicle manufactured and operated by SpaceX.
Update 2: Launch Postponed
The SpaceX launch director has decided to cancel Crew Dragon’s Demo-2 mission just 20 minutes before the scheduled departure due to adverse weather conditions.
Standing down from launch today due to unfavorable weather in the flight path. Our next launch opportunity is Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT, or 19:22 UTC
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 27, 2020
Update 1: New Weather Forecast
The latest weather prognostication by the U.S Air Force 45th Weather Squadron pegs the probability of a violation of weather constraints at 50 percent. This means that currently there is a 50 percent chance that the launch will be adversely affected by the prevailing weather conditions. The latest Launch Mission Execution Forecast states:
Residual moisture with the passing low pressure system and increased low-level convergence will threaten the Space Coast with showers and thunderstorms this afternoon. Tropical Storm Bertha has just formed off the coast of South Carolina and is advecting inland over the next 6 hours. The primary concerns for launch are flight through precipitation, as well as the anvil and cumulus cloud rules associated with the afternoon convection.
You can access the entire report by clicking the link above. We will continue to follow these developments and update this post as needed.
Official NASA SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch Live Stream
As always, we have covered all of the bases for you here at Wccftech. You can follow this historic SpaceX launch by clicking on the embedded official live stream from NASA:
NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, noted at a press conference on the 26th of May:
"This is a unique moment where all of America can take a moment and look at our country do something stunning again, and that is launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and we're going to go to the International Space Station. And what we do there, of course, is we're transforming how we do spaceflight in general."
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon launch vehicle is a variant of the cargo-focused Dragon capsules and is equipped with enhanced life support systems along with up to 7 seats for astronauts. Similar to the company’s iconic Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon vehicle is also reusable and is expected to eventually undertake multiple missions.
Alternative SpaceX Launch Live Stream (Unofficial):
As per the details, SpaceX and NASA technicians and engineers spent much of Tuesday in concluding the final preparatory work ahead of the Crew Dragon’s launch officially slated for 04:33 p.m. ET on the 27th of May (Wednesday). This regimen included the deployment of the Falcon 9 rocket from a vertical to a horizontal position at the Launch Complex 39A for a last-minute inspection of the water radiator system designed to cool down the spacecraft in tandem with the support equipment on the ground. Once the check was completed, the rocket was returned to a vertical position. Meteorologists have already increased the probability of favorable launch weather during the specified window to 60 percent from an earlier prognostication of a 40 percent likelihood (read above). However, this forecast does not take into account the weather feasibility at the designated abort sites and, consequently, a deterioration of weather conditions at these sites may prompt a launch delay or even a cancellation.
According to the schedule disseminated by Norm Knight, the deputy director for flight operations at the Johnson Space Center, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will wake up at around 09:00 a.m. ET on launch day (Wednesday). After breakfast, a medical checkup, and final briefings, the duo will don spacesuits and depart the operations building just after 01:00 p.m. ET. The astronauts will be transported to the launch pad in a designated Tesla Model X vehicle and will enter the Crew Dragon spacecraft at around 02:00 p.m. ET. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will be fueled around 45 minutes before the scheduled launch at 04:33 p.m. ET.
Bear in mind that the Demo-2 is intended to serve as a test flight in order to corroborate the performance parameters of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Initially, the vehicle was to spend only a few weeks in space as a part of this mission. However, given a crew shortfall aboard the International Space Station (ISS), NASA has decided to extend the mission by a still-to-be-determined period of time so as to allow Behnken and Harley to assist NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy currently onboard the ISS.
Jim Bridenstine underscored this point at his press conference on the 26th of May:
“Remember, this is a test flight. The highest priority is to test the vehicle and get it home safely, and be prepared to launch Crew-1.”
As a refresher, the Crew-1 has been designated as the first operational manned SpaceX mission by NASA and will be used to transport three NASA and one Japanese astronaut to the ISS. Bridenstine revealed at the presser that the Crew-1 mission is currently slated for the 30th of August. Consequently, the Crew Dragon spacecraft will have to return to the Earth several weeks prior to the scheduled Crew-1 launch so as to allow for detailed inspections and a re-certification by NASA.
Of course, this is only the beginning of the journey for SpaceX, as evidenced by Elon Musk’s stated goal of landing humans on the Moon and, eventually, Mars. In pursuit of these lofty goals, SpaceX is currently executing a $2.6 billion contract from NASA to undertake six Crew Dragon missions to the ISS following today’s Demo-2 test flight.