While SpaceX and NASA were planning to make history today, Mother Nature has forced a bit of a delay. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon Crew capsule was to bring astronauts to the International Space Station from American soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. Due to bad weather around NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, today’s 3:44pm launch has been rescheduled to Saturday, May 30, at 3:22pm. Weather ultimately violated three rules that are needed to be passed prior to launch.
Unsettled conditions in the wake of Tropical Storm Bertha were the reason for today’s delay. Conditions should be somewhat better this weekend for the back-up launch dates of Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31. By the weekend, a subtropical ridge will build back into the area. Although thunderstorm activity will remain around Florida, a ridge axis near the Space Coast will allow the east coast sea breeze to move further inland, keeping storms that do form farther from the Spaceport. Nevertheless, weather does remain a concern both Saturday and Sunday; the 45th Weather Squadron that forecasts for these missions believes there’s still a chance that “flight through precipitation”, the anvil cloud rule, and the cumulus cloud rule could be violated on the back-up dates/times.
For now, the 45th Weather Squadron believes weather will be 60% favorable for launch attempts on Saturday and Sunday.
Once a launch does occur, astronauts Bob Behnken and and Doug Hurley will begin their tasks in the Crew Dragon capsule as it heads to the International Space Station (ISS) in this demo mission of the Crew Dragon. After a successful demo flight, SpaceX would initiate regular service to the ISS upon the spacecraft’s passenger certification.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. Behnken is no stranger to space; he was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights. Behnken flew STS-123 in March 2008 and STS-130 in February 2010; he also performed three spacewalks during each mission. Born in St. Anne, Missouri, he has Bachelor’s degrees in physics and mechanical engineering from Washington University and earned a master’s and doctorate in mechanical engineering from California Institute of Technology. Before joining NASA, Behnken was a flight test engineer with the U.S. Air Force.
Hurley will be the spacecraft commander for Demo-2, responsible for activities such as launch, landing and recovery. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000 and has completed two spaceflights. Hurley served as pilot and lead robotics operator for both STS‐127 in July 2009 and STS‐135, the final space shuttle mission, in July 2011. The New York native was born in Endicott but considers Apalachin his hometown. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Tulane University in Louisiana and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Maryland. Before joining NASA, he was a fighter pilot and test pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.