UPDATE: Wednesday’s historic SpaceX launch was postponed due to weather conditions at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 p.m. Eastern.
NASA is scheduled to launch astronauts from U.S. soil Wednesday afternoon for the first time in nearly a decade, carried into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule making their first manned spaceflight.
If all goes as planned with the launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, it will mark the first time a private company has launched people into orbit, the culmination of a partnership struck in 2014 between Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX has been launching cargo capsules to the space station since 2012.
“This is a unique moment where all of America can take a moment and look at our country do something stunning again,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a news briefing Tuesday.
Astronaut Doug Hurley, 53, was the pilot of the space shuttle Atlantis during the program’s final mission in July 2011. So it’s only fitting he will be one of two astronauts to usher in a new era of spaceflight. Joining him in the Dragon will be Bob Behnken, 49, a veteran astronaut who has accumulated more than 708 hours in space.
The only variable remains the weather. One hour before launch, the astronauts were strapped in and ready to go, but SpaceX’s John Insprucker said the weather conditions from the 45th Space Wing was “red," meaning it’s too severe to permit liftoff. It’s still possible for conditions to clear up before liftoff.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch and stream Wednesday’s historic SpaceX launch:
Takeoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for 4:33 p.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. It will be just the fifth time astronauts hitch a ride on a new space system (following the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and shuttle programs).
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, NASA is urging visitors to avoid traveling to the space center. But nearby beaches are now open, and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey is encouraging visitors to come watch the launch.
Both NASA and SpaceX will stream the launch live on their YouTube channels. You can also watch the live launch coverage beginning at noon Eastern here:
Cable networks like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News are expected to show the launch live. Fox 29 and NBC10 also confirmed they will breaking into normal programming to carry the launch live in the Philadelphia area.
Discovery and the Science Channel will air simulcast coverage of the launch beginning at 2 p.m. The National Geographic channel will air joint coverage with ABC News Live beginning at 3 p.m, hosted by anchor Tom Llamas and correspondent Linsey Davis.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to travel to Florida to watch the historic launch.
Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, said during a Fox News interview last week that the launch would serve as a sign of hope amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“When that rocket goes off next week, it’ll remind the American people that even in the midst of the most challenging times, America still moves forward,” Pence said.
While forecasters placed the odds of an acceptable launch window at 60%, the mission also needs relatively calm waves and wind along the U.S. and Canadian seaboards and across the North Atlantic to Ireland, in case the astronauts need to make an emergency splashdown.
If weather conditions prevent launch, the next attempt would take place Saturday.
Two NASA astronauts are launching into space Wednesday:
The Demo-2 mission is to validate the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule for human spaceflight. The 19-hour flight will send Hurley and Behnken to the International Space Station, where they will join the three-person crew already there. The long flight means they might need to test SpaceX’s new space toilet.
“The toilet?” Hurley said to the the New York Times. “We’ll let you know how it works out. They have one. We’ll try it out, and we’ll let you know when we get back.”
The two will spend one to four months aboard the orbiting lab, where they will help with experiments and perform a space walk or two. The two astronauts will end their mission in a scene not seen since the Apollo 9 mission more than 50 years ago — an Atlantic splashdown.