CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (WFLA) – Poor weather forced NASA and SpaceX to scrub Wednesday’s historic launch of a commercial crewed mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The weather along Florida’s Space Coast was iffy for most of the day. The National Weather Service even issued a brief tornado warning north of the launch site just a few hours ahead of the targeted launch time.
Even after that weather moved offshore, NASA and SpaceX were keeping a close eye on a cell near Orlando. They said they would be monitoring the cell right up until the launch and that a decision would come down to the wire.
“Unless you can give us another 10 minutes (past T-0) I don’t think we’re gonna get there with any of the (weather) rules,” SpaceX Launch Director Mike Taylor said with T-20 minutes left.
The mission was officially scrubbed and the clock was stopped with T-16 minutes and 51 seconds left.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley were strapped into their seats and the hatch was closed, ready for liftoff from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A when the call was made.
“It was a good effort by the teams and we understand,” the crew said from inside the spacecraft.
While the radar may have looked mostly clear over the Space Coast at launch time, Meteorologist Amanda Holly explained there are more factors at play.
“We’re not just looking at rain. We’re looking at clouds, we’re looking at the amount of precipitation, we’re looking at the electrical fields in the atmosphere,” she said. “The rocket moving so fast in the atmosphere could actually spark a lightning strike on its own because of the amount of electricity we have nearby with the storms.”
SpaceX and NASA will now try to launch the Demo-2 mission on Saturday afternoon. When they launch, Behnken and Hurley will be the first humans sent into space from U.S. soil since 2011.
If all goes according to plan this weekend, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center around 3:22 p.m. ET and carry Behnken and Hurley to the International Space Station.
“I don’t have to tell you all how exciting it is to have the first flight of humans to space from the Kennedy Space Center in nine years,” Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said Tuesday.
President Donald Trump, who made the trip to Florida Wednesday for the launch attempt, tweeted that he will be back Saturday for the second try.
The Demo-2 mission marks a new era of human spaceflight. NASA describes as the final major step before the Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for long-duration missions to the space station.