Featured Image: The Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon stand ready to fly against a cloudy grey sky. (Image credit: Next Horizons Spaceflight/Matt Cutshall
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – Mother nature called a hold to today’s launch of SpaceX Demo-2 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A. At T-minus 17 minutes, the Launch Director called a scrub of the launch due to an excess of electricity in the atmosphere in the vicinity on the launch pad which could cause lightning to strike if they launched. There were no issues with either Crew Dragon or Falcon 9. The SpaceX/NASA team will try again on Saturday May 30 at 3:22 PM.
This launch would mark the first launch of astronauts from American soil since the grounding of the Shuttle fleet in 2011. In the interim NASA has purchased space aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule to get astronauts to and from the ISS at a cost of $86 million a seat. This would also be the first launch of humans on a commercially produced spacecraft. SpaceX designed the Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of the Commercial Crew program meant to develop commercial space programs. When fully certified the Crew Dragon will ferry up to 4 passengers plus cargo to the space station for NASA several times over the next few years.
The excitement around this historic launch grew virulently over the last week. This can possibly be contributed to by COVID-19 quarantines and shutdowns leaving many people looking for something interesting to watch or even looking at the mission as a sign of hope in dark days. That was a theme of the coverage from NASA and SpaceX. During an interview, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk spoke about the design of the Crew Dragon spacesuits. When asked why the suits look the way they do, he describe the main driver as being, “Getting the kids fired up about wanting to wear that space suit. Get them fired up about wanting to go to orbit, go to the moon, to go to Mars […] to get them excited about the future. ” During the same interview NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told a story about how watching Top Gun made him want to be a Navy pilot, and he expects the same from SpaceX crewed launches.
While most people watched the action from home, quite a few made it out the the beaches and roadways in the vicinity of Titusville and Cocoa Beach. Social distancing seemed a thing of the past and if you ignored the spattering of masks you might forget that there is still an active pandemic. People drove from all over the country to come and see history in the making despite COVID-19 fears.
For those of us who watched the live stream from the comfort of home, we were treated to a comprehensive broadcast that made sure key events were being explained and also entertained. DM-1 last year won an Emmy for Outstanding Interactive Program for NASA’s and SpaceX’s multimedia coverage. The same level of coverage was available for DM-2 as well. I especially appreciated the views from inside the capsule during the ingress. The use of the headcam on one of the technicians was brilliant. It was also very interesting to me personally to hear the communications checks, which were unnecessary on Cargo Dragon missions.
NASA and SpaceX will once again be beginning their coverage very early, with coverage starting at 11 AM EDT. There remains a high probability of violating the same weather constraints on Saturday with a 60% chance of violation. The backup day of Sunday is the same. Stay tuned for any updates!