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NASA expects SpaceX Crew Dragon to launch on Saturday

Published Feb 27th, 2019 6:35PM EST
crew dragon launch
Image: NASA

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It was just a few days ago that NASA announced it had cleared SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for a test launch and docking opportunity with the International Space Station, and the day is rapidly approaching. March 2nd, this coming Saturday, SpaceX will finally have a chance to prove that its crew-capable spacecraft can safely leave the Earth and head to the orbiting laboratory.

Now, NASA has taken a good look at the forecast for the big day and seems very optimistic that weather won’t be getting in the way of SpaceX’s opportunity. In a new blog post, NASA says there’s a solid 80 percent chance that favorable weather will allow the launch to go off as planned.

A lot of different factors play into whether or not local weather will impact a launch. Even without precipitation, high winds at lofty altitudes can force delays for rocket launches. That doesn’t look like it’ll be a problem this time around.

For a launch Saturday, meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather. Weak high pressure in advance of a front moving southeast into the area is expected during the launch window with a low probability for rain and weak surface winds and only slight concerns of any cumulus cloud or thick cloud rule violations during the instantaneous launch window.

An instantaneous launch window is far less forgiving than the alternative. Instantaneous launch opportunities have to happen at the exact time they were scheduled for, rather than allowing for multiple attempts at clearing a rocket for take-off. If the rocket and the weather aren’t in their ideal conditions at the exact moment — in this case, 2:49 a.m. EST — the launch is scrubbed and rescheduled.

This will definitely be the biggest test of SpaceX’s astronaut-carrying spacecraft yet, and NASA is eager to have a way to send astronauts to and from the ISS whenever it needs to. If everything goes well, we could see crewed test flights within months, but any setback could push the timeline back considerably.

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