'No decision' on next launch attempt for historic SpaceX-NASA mission

30 Mai, 2020, 08:23 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Sunrise behind the Demo-2 mission waiting on the launch pad

SpaceX pressed ahead with its second attempt to launch astronauts for NASA - a historic first for a private company - but more stormy weather threatened more delays. The launch of SpaceX Crew Dragon - formally known as Demo-2 test flight - is set for Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT (2:22 p.m. CDT) from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

This was the case for the Apollo 12 mission, which was struck twice shortly after launch - losing the use of some non-essential instruments but completing its mission nonetheless. Wednesday's scheduled flight was scrubbed 17 minutes before blastoff because of weather concerns.

In addition to validating the Crew Dragon for crewed spaceflight, this mission will also validate the Falcon 9 rocket's ability to deliver crews to space.

Atmospheric scientists have learned that rockets generate an electrically conductive exhaust plume that can trigger lightning when passing through a preexisting electric field - usually from clouds containing both water and ice. There is a 50 per cent chance of favourable conditions for Saturday's Demo-2 launch attempt, with the primary weather concerns being the potential for cumulus or cumulonimbus (anvil) clouds in the vicinity of the launch site, and the possibility of the rocket flying through precipitation.

With NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley strapped into the Crew Dragon capsule, the launch pad platform retracted and rocket fueling underway, SpaceX made the call to abort. However, as of Thursday afternoon, the official weather forecast by the 45th Weather Squadron gives the weather only a 40% chance of being acceptable for launch.

Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Sunday, May 31st, at 10:29 a.m. EDT (07:29 a.m. PDT). "In fact, the rocket itself could become a lightning bolt".

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Bridenstine said back-to-back tries would be tough on the launch team - and the astronauts - given that this is a test flight. Since then, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station, a practice that has become increasingly expensive and limited United States access to the station.

"There will be no pressure, we will launch when we are ready", he told reporters at a press conference. Since the launch window was instantaneous, however, they were forced to stand down.

This emphasizes that, sometimes, making the "go/no-go" decision for a mission to launch on time can depend on the at-the-moment weather conditions. A weekend launch could draw even bigger crowds. SpaceX's Crew Dragon, on the other hand, looks to be something straight out of science fiction that has been made real.

Coverage should include live shots of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley saying goodbye to their families before being driven out to the pad and loading into the capsule before launch. It was certainly not crowded on this flight.

The mission, designated Demo-2, is the second demonstration flight of the Crew Dragon and the last step in the NASA CCP certification process for long-duration missions to the ISS. - Docking - Once in orbit, the astronauts are to carry out a number of checks of Crew Dragon on what is created to be the final test flight before NASA certifies the capsule for regular crew flights.

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