Stormy Florida weather has forced SpaceX to delay its historic NASA astronaut launch debut attempt, pushing the mission’s next attempt to Saturday, May 30th.
Unfortunately, the possibility that weather would improve forced SpaceX and NASA to wait just 16 minutes before launch to call of Crew Dragon’s Demo-2 inaugural astronaut flight test. Thankfully and far from a guarantee, every aspect under SpaceX and NASA’s control went perfectly leading up to launch, with the mission’s new Falcon 9 booster more than 70% fueled before the abort was called. As such, SpaceX’s first Demo-2 launch attempt has also served as the company’s first live wet dress rehearsal (WDR) with astronauts on top of the rocket.
The value of such a test – even if SpaceX wasn’t ultimately able to launch – is undoubtedly significant and, as SpaceX’s John Insprucker noted after the scrub, the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft can safely perform dozens of similar launch (and abort) cycles over their lifetime. For now, SpaceX and NASA’s second such launch attempt is scheduled to occur no earlier than (NET) 3:22 pm EDT (19:22 UTC) on Saturday, May 30th.
Unfortunately, present forecasts expect weather to be only slightly more favorable on both May 30th and 31st, offering a 60% chance of favorable launch conditions and a similar focus on the same thunderstorm-related constraints. As such, there’s a definite chance that the next two attempts will also result in equivalent practice runs instead of an actual liftoff. Nevertheless, SpaceX and NASA will continue to try. For anyone that’s experienced Space Shuttle launches over the former vehicle’s three decades of operations, these kinds of weather-related scrubs – let alone the technical faults that often delayed Shuttle launches – were a constant feature of the system.
Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon are at least as sensitive to weather constraints, albeit for significantly different reasons than the Shuttle.