Today is the day. At 4:33 pm ET, SpaceX is on track to become the first private space company to deliver NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
The final launch preparations for the Demo-2 mission are currently taking place at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and we’re here to bring you a live blog of the final countdown and the launch as it happens – weather pending.
The two astronauts already strapped in and aboard the Crew Dragon will be Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both veteran spacefarers with several missions under their belts. This will mark the first time since the 2011 end of the Space Shuttle program that American spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts to the ISS.
You can watch the SpaceX livestream here:
LIVE BLOG (all timestamps ET/refresh to see the latest):
3:30 pm: While we wait, here’s a brief overview of SpaceX’s history – from early failures to successfully docking the Dragon capsule at the ISS in 2012, and landing the Falcon 9 re-usable rocket in 2015.
3:31 pm: While excitement is mounting, we’re still waiting to hear for conditions to clear for #LaunchAmerica: a weather briefing is expected shortly. The instantaneous launch window is at 4:33 pm, and that will be the only chance today.
3:33 pm: T minus one hour!
3:36 pm: We’ve now heard one “go” on the comms, but here’s what we are expecting next: first up, we need a “go/no go”, which we’re expecting at T minus 45 minutes… If that happens, the crew access arm will retract at T minus 42 minutes. As we’ve already heard, the launch window is tight today, so there’s not much wiggle room in the countdown.
3:44 pm: While we wait for that crucial final announcement, we’ve been hearing more about the two astronauts already strapped in the Crew Dragon capsule. You can read more about them and their preparations here!
✔️ Strapped in
✔️ Ready for the ride#LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/qJeBMFEWvS
— NASA (@NASA) May 27, 2020
3:46 pm: The weather is still in the red…
3:48 pm: We’re at “go” for propellant load! The astronauts are currently hearing a safety briefing reminder for evacuation procedures over the comms; the crew access arm is retracting!
3:50 pm: The weather is trending in the right direction! But this whole thing could still be postponed, so we can’t get too excited just yet. Absolutely nail-biting…
3:57 pm: We’re about a minute away from propellant load starting. Goosebumps!
3:59 pm: Propellant load has started! Liquid oxygen is being pumped into the first stage of Falcon 9, and RP-1 kerosene is flowing into both stages. Those two propellants won’t ignite on their own – the rocket uses the addition of a third fluid known as TEA-TEB (triethylaluminium-triethylborane) to ignite the engines. That third fluid ignites spontaneously when it comes into contact with oxygen, this is known as a pyrophoric substance.
4:06 pm: WEATHER UPDATE! The launch team is currently assessing the situation with lightning, and we’ll know in about six minutes if we’re launching or not. Oh my god.
4:10 pm: Apparently, 86 percent of people queried in a survey earlier said they would love to go to space if they had the chance. If that was amongst the live-stream viewers, we have a bit of a self-selected audience there… While we still wait for that final weather ruling, here’s a story by our senior writer Michelle Starr on how living on space might shape human evolution in the future.
4:13 pm: Stage two propellant load complete. There are clouds of liquid oxygen steaming away, “this is perfectly normal”, we are assured.
4:14 pm: Uh oh, it’s not looking good regarding weather.
4:16 pm: OH NOOOOOO.