The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is currently sitting on launchpad 39A at Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s scheduled to lift off this afternoon as part of Demo-2, a mission that will bring astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station.
Liftoff is scheduled for 4:33 p.m. ET, and while the weather hasn’t looked great — yesterday’s forecast had it at 60 percent favorable — the final call on whether the mission is a go won’t come until T-45 minutes, or 3:48 p.m. ET. Naturally, you’ll be able to stream the whole thing live on YouTube in a broadcast (embedded above) set to begin at 12:15 p.m. ET. It will continue at least until the Crew Dragon docks with the ISS, about 19 hours after launch, at around 11:30 ET tomorrow morning.
If successful, Demo-2 would be the first time NASA astronauts have traveled into space on a commercial spacecraft, and the first time humans have entered space from American soil since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. Since then, American astronauts have traveled to Russia and gone up on Soyuz spacecraft, an expensive stopgap that, let’s face it, is also kind of demoralizing to national pride.
NASA is going ahead with the launch despite the COVID-19 pandemic because it needs to keep the ISS properly staffed with American astronauts. Its leader has also expressed hope that the launch will uplift the public as the struggle against the disease continues.
If today’s launch has to be scuttled for weather or any other reason, they’ll try again at 3:22 p.m. ET on Saturday or 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.
A successful mission would earn SpaceX certification by NASA for future operational crew missions to and from the ISS, opening a new era in American space history.