Miami, May 27 (efe-epa).- The historic launch of the NASA-SpaceX manned mission to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida was scrubbed due to bad weather on Wednesday, with the mission rescheduled for next Saturday.
It was to be the first time in the past nine years that a manned mission had gone into orbit from US soil.
Heavy cloud cover and a thunderstorm in the area caused mission controllers to cancel the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule crewed by NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 49, and Douglas Hurley, 53, about 15 minutes before liftoff, which had been scheduled for 4:33 pm from Launch Pad 39A.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had been among the officials, special guests and dignitaries physically on hand to witness the launch.
In announcing the scrubbing of the mission, NASA said that 25 minutes after the launch window closed the proper weather conditions once again prevailed, but the mission had already been cancelled and could not be resumed.
To safely launch the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, mission controllers need to have low ocean wave activity and no more than mild wind conditions both locally and below the flight path into orbit across the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Ireland in case the capsule has to make an emergency splashdown.
“We could see some raindrops on the windows and just figured that whatever it was, was too close to the launch pad at the time we needed it not to be,” said one of the astronauts from inside the capsule after the mission was scrubbed. “Understand that everybody’s probably a little bit bummed out. That’s just part of the deal. We’ll do it again, I think, on Saturday.”
Initially, local weather forecasts provided only a 50 percent chance that the launch could go forward as planned, but with the cancellation of the liftoff the mission was reset for 3:22 pm on Saturday, when the next launch window will be available so that the capsule can correctly rendezvous in orbit with the ISS.
After spending two hours on board the Crew Dragon capsule, the two astronauts disembarked and returned to the Kennedy Space Center, where they will spend the next few days with their families and resume preparations for the weekend mission.
Weather conditions look like they may improve by Saturday and meteorologists give the mission a 60 percent chance of going forward at that time.
Tropical Storm Bertha, which formed on Wednesday morning off the coast of South Carolina, and the rather unsettled nature of the weather in Florida at this time were the two main reasons that SpaceX and NASA jointly decided to postpone the launch.
The mission will serve to validate the launch systems developed by SpaceX for the future commercialization of spaceflight, with the astronauts spending between six and 16 weeks on board the orbital platform carrying out research and analyzing the Crew Dragon capsule’s operations.
Both astronauts have extensive space experience with NASA.
Behnken has flown on two space shuttle missions to the ISS and was designated NASA’s Chief Astronaut from 2012 to 2015. He is a US Air Force colonel and test pilot who joined NASA in 2000, and he has performed six spacewalks and logged more than 29 days in space.
Hurley is retired US Marine Corps colonel who joined NASA’s astronaut corp in 2000 in the same class as Behnken. Hurley has flown on two shuttle missions in 2009 and 2011.