Crew-1 Launch Must Wait Until Sunday

Crew-1 Launch Must Wait Until Sunday

NASA and SpaceX have decided to wait until Sunday to launch Crew-1, the first operational mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon space transportation system. Bad weather delayed the departure of SpaceX’s drone ship needed to recover the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage. The launch now is scheduled for Sunday, November 15, at 7:27 pm ET.

Three NASA astronauts and one from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be delivered to the International Space Station aboard Crew-1 for a 6-month mission.  They have named their Crew Dragon spacecraft “Resilience.”

Crew-1 crew arriving at Kennedy Space Center prior to their launch. L-R: Shannon Walker (NASA), Victor Glover (NASA), Michael Hopkins (NASA), Soichi Noguchi (JAXA). November 8, 2020. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

In general, weather must be acceptable not only at the launch site, but all along the spacecraft’s route to orbit up along the Eastern Seaboard and across the Atlantic towards Ireland. Crew Dragon is designed with abort systems that automatically separate the crew capsule from the rocket and return the crew safely to an ocean landing should anything go awry on the launch pad or during ascent to orbit.

SpaceX also is the only orbital space launch company that recovers and reuses its rockets’ first stages. The Falcon 9 first stage sometimes lands on an autonomous drone ship off the Florida coast and sometimes back on terra firma in Florida.

For this mission, it will land on the drone ship, but its departure was delayed by Hurricane Eta, which passed through Florida this week. It left port yesterday and cannot get into position until Sunday. This specific first stage will launch the Crew-2 mission in the spring of 2021 so NASA has a special interest in its recovery.  Hence the decision to wait.

Although it is only a one-day launch delay, orbital mechanics dictate that it will take 27 hours for the crew to reach the space station instead of 8.5 hours. Docking is scheduled for about 11:00 pm ET on Monday, November 16.

The weather is only 60 percent favorable on Sunday, however.  If the launch must be delayed for any reason, the next opportunity is 72 hours later, on Wednesday, when the weather forecast is 80 percent favorable.

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