Cape Canaveral (CNN) – SpaceX and NASA will have to wait at least a few more days for their historic space flight.
Launch authorities announced at 4:17 p.m. Wednesday that bad weather would prevent the rocket and SpaceX capsule from taking off that would take NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on the first manned space flight to lift off the ground. American in almost a decade.
There are additional launch windows this Saturday and Sunday, a NASA spokesman said. The next attempt will be Saturday at 3:22 pm.
There was a 50% chance that the flight would be postponed due to weather starting Wednesday morning. Rain along the flight path and the development of afternoon thunderstorms nearby were major concerns for the launch, as Florida has faced heavy rain from a tropical disturbance in recent days.
In the event of a problem with the rocket after takeoff, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has the ability to detach from the rocket and take astronauts to safety. But to ensure they have a safe landing, SpaceX must monitor weather conditions across a wide swath of the Atlantic Ocean to prepare for any possible abortion scenario.
The 45th Space Wing, a military arm that oversees all rocket launches off the east coast, monitors the weather and shares its information with NASA and SpaceX.
The launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is planned to move forward over the weekend despite the covid-19 pandemic, which has shut down private and government operations in United States. NASA says it must continue the mission to maintain the International Space Station, a giant-orbiting laboratory, fully staffed by American astronauts.
Senior space agency official Jim Bridenstine also said he hopes this launch will inspire astonishment and lift people’s spirits during the current health crisis.
On the ground in Florida, local authorities prepared for an expected influx of onlookers expected to gather on nearby beaches, which recently reopened after weeks of confinement amid the battle with covid-19.
But NASA did not welcome any visitors to the launch site. A few dozen journalists were allowed to cover the launch from the press area at the Kennedy Space Center, but strict social distancing policies and guidelines around the use of face masks were implemented. Bridenstine held most of the briefings over the phone, for example, and the face-to-face interviews were conducted one-on-one with teams from news.
The launch is also intended to serve as a kind of litmus test for NASA’s drive to partner more broadly with the private sector.
SpaceX developed Crew Dragon under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which, for the first time in the space agency’s history, delivered much of the design, development, and testing of new, human-rated spacecraft to the private sector.
NASA awarded fixed-price contracts SpaceX and Boeing to do the job, but that decision was not without controversy, particularly in the early days of the Commercial Crew Program. But if the SpaceX flight is a success, it could be seen as a great victory for people at NASA who hope to rely more on similar contracts to help achieve the space agency’s goals.
Bridenstine, for example, hopes to rely heavily on private sector partnerships to achieve the space agency’s ambitious goal of bringing American astronauts to the Moon by 2024.
“Ultimately, what we are trying to achieve is to have numerous suppliers that compete against each other in cost, innovation and security. And so NASA can be a customer, one of many customers, and we already know that this will save a ton of money in the long run, ”Bridenstine told Rachel Crane of CNN Business.