NASA and SpaceX have announced a 24-hour weather delay for their planned launch of four astronauts into orbit for America’s first full-fledged human mission using a privately owned spacecraft.
NASA officials said take-off time was slipped from Saturday to Sunday evening due to expectations of gusty ground winds over Florida – the remnants of the ETA storm – which would jeopardize the re-landing of the reusable Falcon 9 missile.
The Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, was rescheduled to launch at 7:27 p.m. Sunday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
The flight crew to the International Space Station includes three American astronauts: Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and mission commander Mike Hopkins, a US Air Force colonel who will be sworn in in the nascent US space force once he gets on board the International Space Station.
The fourth crew member, Japanese astronaut Soishi Noguchi, is on his third flight into orbit after flying on the US space shuttle in 2005 and the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2009.
The trip to the space station – which lasted from about eight hours to just over a day by new launch time – marks SpaceX’s first “operational” mission for Crew Dragon.
The spacecraft’s test flight to and from the space station with a crew of two in August marked the first space flight of NASA astronauts launched from US soil in nine years, after the shuttle program ended.
NASA officials just signed the final design for the Crew Dragon earlier this week, capping a nearly 10-year development phase for SpaceX under the space agency’s crew program between the public and private sectors.
The emergence of the Falcon 9 and the Crew Dragon represents a new era of commercially developed spacecraft – owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA – used to take Americans into orbit.
“The history that is being made this time is that we’re launching what we call an operational flight to the International Space Station,” said NASA President Jim Bridenstein.
Elon Musk, the head of SpaceX, usually attends high-profile launches in person, but has tested positive for coronavirus. It is unclear if Musk made contact with the astronauts, but it is unlikely because the crew had been in routine quarantine for weeks before the flight.
NASA contracted with SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to develop space capsules to replace the shuttle and end the United States’ dependence on the Russians to take American astronauts into orbit. Boeing’s first manned test mission with the Starliner capsule is scheduled for late 2021.