Bad weather threatens Elon Musk's historic manned Space X launch

Bad weather threatens Elon Musk’s historic manned Space X launch as rain and storms are forecast in Florida just one day after crew members completed the final rehearsal

  • Weather has threatened to delay Space X’s historic launch of two NASA astronauts on Wednesday
  • Forecasts show continual thunderstorms and thick cloud cover at Kennedy’s Space Center in Florida  
  • If delayed on Wednesday, the launch will be rescheduled for Saturday, May 30
  • Robert Behnken, 49, and Douglas Hurley, 53, will man the capsule Wednesday 
  • The two NASA astronauts performed their ‘dress rehearsal’ Saturday, Hurley said
  • They arrived at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida wearing their SpaceX-designed spacesuits and in a Tesla with the license plate ISSBND
  • They then climbed into their Crew Dragon spacecraft at Launch Complex 39A 
  • SpaceX also successfully tested its Falcon 9 rocket Friday
  • Behnken said on Twitter Friday: ‘Exciting couple of days here at NASA Kennedy! 

Poor weather has threatened the Space X launch on Wednesday which is set to send two American astronauts to the International Space Station in the first crewed mission from US soil in nine years.  

The scheduled takeoff has only a 40 per cent chance of liftoff due to a thick cloud cover and the potential for Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket to fly through the rain.

Weather forecasts predict Kennedy’s Space Center in Florida, where the launch will take place, will see continued thunderstorms starting this week and into the next. 

Thunderstorms and thick cloud cover may delay Space X’s anticipated launch on Wednesday. Pictured: The Falcon 9 rocket that will carry the Dragon capsule into space

‘On launch day, remnant moisture’ from a tropical wave will stay in the area, the Launch Mission Execution Forecast said, according to United Press International.  

Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Arthur crept towards the East Coast as the first named storm in the Atlantic Ocean this year. The NOAA later downgraded it to a post-tropical cyclone that was heading away from the US.  

‘The primary launch weather concerns remain flight through precipitation, the thick cloud layer rule and the cumulus cloud rule associated with the remnant tropical moisture and proximity of [a] developing low,’ Launch Mission Execution Forecast added.

Liftoff can’t happen if it’s raining at the launch pad or detected in the flight path.

Also, a layer with clouds within five nautical miles and at least 4,500 feet thick is also a deterrent. Such conditions could be dangerous for crew members and damage equipment.

‘You could trigger lightning,’Tim Garner, a meteorologist in charge at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a 2017 podcast.

‘[A rocket’s] mere presence in a high electric field will be that thing that sets off the lightning strike.’

American astronauts Robert Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley (right) with NASA will make the trip to the International Space Station

Pictured: This illustration made available by SpaceX depicts the company’s Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket during the uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Weather forecasts at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (pictured) show a series of thunderstorms will hit Treasure Coast this week and the next

Space X CEO Elon Musk said that high-altitude wind shear ‘hits like a sledgehammer’ and can cause ‘control problems.’

NASA has implemented the ‘Good Sense Rule,’ which states: ‘Even when constraints are not violated, if any other hazardous conditions exist, the launch weather officer will report the threat to the launch director. The launch director may hold at any time based on the instability of the weather.’ 

Benji Reed, the company’s director of Crew Mission Management, told Business Insider that Space X monitors weather at 50 separate locations. They even watch wave and height velocity in the Atlantic Ocean. 

‘We need to make sure that if the crew had to come down, in a launch escape scenario, that they would come down in a sea state that would keep them safe, and that the rescue forces would be able to come and get them,’ said Reed.

‘We don’t launch until we know that we’re ready.’

If the highly anticipated launch is delayed, NASA said it will make another attempt to fly the Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS on Saturday.  

But last Saturday, space officials completed the final rehearsal for their historic mission. It is the first astronaut launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center since the last shuttle flight in 2011. 

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen as they depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Demo-2 mission launch on  Saturday

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 49, and Douglas Hurley, 53, both veteran space travelers, will crew the capsule Wednesday. Hurley piloted Atlantis on its last trip. 

The two astronauts performed their ‘dress rehearsal’, Hurley said. They arrived at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida wearing their SpaceX-designed spacesuits and in a Tesla with the license plate ISSBND, ISS Bound.

They then climbed into their Crew Dragon spacecraft at Launch Complex 39A. SpaceX also successfully tested their Falcon 9 rocket Friday. 

Behnken wrote on Twitter Friday: ‘Exciting couple of days here at NASA Kennedy! 

‘Crew arrival in Florida was awesome, seeing our vehicle roll to 39A was epic, and watching our SpaceX Falcon 9 1st-stage fire one more time before our mission still has a smile on my face!’ 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on Friday on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A during a brief static fire test ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission this week 

The rocket is set for a Wednesday, May 27, launch that will send two astronauts to the International Space Station for the first crewed flight from the U.S. in nearly a decade

Astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken pose in front of a Tesla Model X car during a SpaceX launch dress rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the conductor and NASA the customer as businesses begin chauffeuring astronauts to the International Space Station. With American shuttles no longer in use, the US has had to rely on Russia for rides to the station

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will be among the spectators at Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday to witness the launch, which has been given the green light despite months of shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear if a delayed launch will change plans for the White House officials.  

The general public, in a nod to virus restrictions, has been told to watch via a livestream as Crew Dragon is launched by a Falcon 9 rocket toward the International Space Station. 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the conductor and NASA the customer as businesses begin chauffeuring astronauts to the International Space Station. With American shuttles no longer in use, the United States has had to rely on Russia for rides to the station.  

At 4:33pm on Wednesday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is set to take off from Launch Pad 39A with the Crew Dragon capsule at its top. 

NASA’s Commercial Crew program, aimed at developing private spacecraft to transport American astronauts to space, began under Barack Obama.

But his successor sees it as a symbol of his strategy to reassert American domination of space, both military – with his creation of the Space Force – and civilian.

He has ordered NASA to return to the moon in 2024, an unlikely timetable but one that has given the storied space agency a boost.

In the 22 years since the first components of the ISS were launched, only spacecraft developed by NASA and by the Russian space agency have carried crews there.

NASA used the illustrious shuttle program – huge, extremely complex, winged ships -to carried dozens of astronauts into space for three decades.

But their staggering cost – $200 billion for 135 flights – and two fatal accidents finally put an end to the program.

The shift to private companies allows NASA to zero in on deep space travel. The space agency is working to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 under orders from the White House, but that deadline appears increasingly unlikely even as three newly chosen commercial teams rush to develop lunar landers. Mars also beckons.  

The White House portrayed the launch as an extension of Trump’s promise to reassert American dominance in space. He recently oversaw creation of the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.

‘Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,’ Trump said in a statement.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (L) and Robert Behnken pose while participating in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken in his spacesuit at SpaceX headquarters in California

In this August 2018 photo made available by SpaceX, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken familiarize themselves with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the spacecraft that will transport them to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

The Crew Dragon spacecraft and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket are pictured at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 21, 2020

This February 2020 photo shows the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule after its arrival to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

The last shuttle, Atlantis, landed on July 21, 2011.

After, NASA astronauts learned Russian and traveled to the ISS in the Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan, in a partnership which survived political tensions between Washington and Moscow.

But it was only ever meant to be a temporary arrangement. NASA had entrusted two private companies – aviation giant Boeing and upstart SpaceX – with the task of designing and building capsules that would replace the shuttles.

Nine years later, SpaceX, founded by Musk, the outspoken South African entrepreneur who also built PayPal and Tesla, in 2002,  is ready to launch.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley pose for pictures after arriving at the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center ahead of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, May 20, 2020, in Florida.

In this Thursday, March 19, 2020 photo astronauts Doug Hurley, foreground, and Bob Behnken work in SpaceX’s flight simulator at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

NASA has awarded SpaceX more than $3 billion in contracts since 2011 to build the spacecraft. 

The first astronauts launched by SpaceX are breaking new ground for style with hip spacesuits, gull-wing Teslas and a sleek rocketship – all of it white with black trim.

The color coordinating is thanks to Musk, the driving force behind both SpaceX and Tesla, and a big fan of flash and science fiction.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken like the fresh new look. They’ll catch a ride to the launch pad in a Tesla Model X electric car.

‘It is really neat, and I think the biggest testament to that is my 10-year-old son telling me how cool I am now,’ Hurley told The Associated Press.

‘SpaceX has gone all out’ on the capsule’s appearance, he said. ‘And they’ve worked equally as hard to make the innards and the displays and everything else in the vehicle work to perfection.’ 

SpaceX has confounded expectations with its space craft, built using more than $3 billion of NASA contracts

SpaceX tests its StarHopper, successfully hovering 500 feet above the launch site and safely landing at the company’s facility in Brownsville, Texas in August 2019 

Nineteen hours after takeoff the two men will dock at the ISS, where two Russians and an American are waiting for them.

The weather forecast remains unfavorable, with a 60 percent chance of bad conditions, according to Cape Canaveral forecasters.

The next launch window is Saturday, May 30.

The launch has taken five years longer than planned to come about, but even with the delays SpaceX has beaten Boeing to the punch.

Boeing’s test flight of its Starliner failed due to serious software issues, and will have to be redone.

 Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the conductor and NASA the customer as businesses begin chauffeuring astronauts to the International Space Station. With American shuttles no longer in use, the United States has had to rely on Russia for rides to the station

SpaceX founder Elon Musk speaks during the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2016

‘It’s been a real success story,’ Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA’s Ames Center in Silicon Valley who now teaches at Stanford, told AFP.

‘There was huge skepticism,’ Hubbard, who met Musk before the creation of SpaceX and also chairs a SpaceX safety advisory panel, recalled.

‘Senior people at the legacy companies, Lockheed, Boeing, would tell me at a conference that these SpaceX guys don’t know what they don’t know,’ he told AFP.

SpaceX finally came out on top with its cheaper Falcon 9 rocket, the first stage of which comes back to land vertically on a barge in the Atlantic.  

The bulky, orange ascent and entry suits worn by shuttle astronauts had their own attraction, according to Behnken, who like Hurley wore them for his two previous missions. Movies like ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Space Cowboys’ stole the orange look whenever actors were ‘trying to pretend to be astronauts.’

On launch day, Hurley and Behnken will get ready inside Kennedy´s remodeled crew quarters, which dates back to the two-man Gemini missions of the mid-1960s. SpaceX techs will help the astronauts into their one-piece, two-layer pressure suits.

Hurley and Behnken will emerge through the same double doors used on July 16, 1969, by Apollo 11´s Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – the Operations and Checkout Building now bears Armstrong´s name.

But instead of the traditional Astrovan, the two will climb into the back seat of a Tesla Model X for the nine-mile ride to Launch Complex 39A, the same pad used by the moonmen and most shuttle crews. It’s while they board the Tesla that they’ll see their wives and young sons for the last time before flight.

Making a comeback after three decades is NASA´s worm logo – wavy, futuristic-looking red letters spelling NASA, the ‘A’ resembling rocket nose cones. The worm adorns the Astro-Tesla, Falcon and even the astronauts’ suits, along with NASA´s original blue meatball-shaped logo.

The white-suited Hurley and Behnken will transfer from the white Tesla to the white Dragon atop the equally white Falcon 9.

‘It´s going to be quite a show,’ Reed promised. 

A Falcon 9 SpaceX heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in 2018

Since 2012, SpaceX has been resupplying the ISS for NASA, thanks to the cargo version of the Dragon capsule.

The manned mission, called Demo-2, is crucial for Washington in two ways.

The first is to break NASA’s dependence on the Russians.

But the second is to catalyze a private ‘low Earth orbit’ market open to tourists and businesses.

‘We envision a day in the future where we have a dozen space stations in low Earth orbit. All operated by commercial industry,’ said NASA boss Jim Bridenstine.

Musk is aiming higher: he is building a huge rocket, Starship, to circumnavigate the Moon – or even to travel to Mars and ultimately make humanity a ‘multi-planet species’.

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