Weather iffy for SpaceX astronaut launch

SpaceX has informed that two United States astronauts have completed the dress rehearsal before their journey to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA's commercial crew program.

The launch is scheduled for 4:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 27.

In March, SpaceX teams at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Hawthorne, California, along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, executed a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in SpaceX's flight simulator.

The mission will see USA astronauts launched into space from American soil for the first time in nine years, and if successful, verify the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for continued, long-duration missions to the International Space Station. Known as Demonstration Mission 2 (Demo-2), it will be Crew Dragon's second orbital launch, third launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, and - most importantly - the United States' first domestic astronaut launch in nearly a decade. Now, Musk says that SpaceX has also made a decision to delay the first flight test of a full-scale Starship prototype until after Demo-2 successfully launches, implying that the company could have potentially launched Starship SN4 for the first time later this week.

The Crew Dragon will be accelerated to a speed of 27,354.21 km/h by the Falcon 9 rocket on lift off and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station. The now having to rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport NASA astronauts to the ISS - and at the unfathomable cost of $US86 ($132) million per seat. Onboard will be spacecraft commander Douglas Hurley, who served as pilot and lead robotics operator on the Space Shuttle's final flight, and joint operations commander Robert Behnken. If Boeing is lucky, NASA might clear Starliner for its own crewed flight test (CFT, equivalent to Crew Dragon Demo-2) in the first half of 2021. A successful static fire test of the Falcon 9's nine Merlin first-stage engines was also conducted on Friday.

SpaceX is now repairing Starship SN4 after a static fire test started a separate fire that lightly damaged the rocket's avionics wiring. Before confirming his attendance, Trump joked that he'd like to launch journalists into space to "get rid" of them.

Post-launch, Behnken and Hurley will spend 19 hours on orbit, with orbit-raising burns and also a manual flight test (the rest of the time Crew Dragon should be under fully automated control) for around 30 minutes just prior to docking. Once aboard the ISS, Behnken and Hurley will join NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. But right now there are only three other crew members at the space station, which typically has a crew of six.

Demo-2 is an end-to-end mission, but no return date has been set for the Crew Dragon. Eventually, Crew Dragons will be capable of staying in space for 210 days, per a NASA requirement.

However, there is one guest that NASA is hoping won't attend Wednesday's launch: Mother Nature.

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