NASA's SpaceX launch scrubbed due to weather, next chance on Saturday

It will be the first time Americans will launch from American soil since 2011.

May 27, 2020, 6:16 PM

History was set to be made today as NASA and SpaceX geared up to launch Americans into space from American soil and on American equipment for the first time in nearly a decade.

The launch has been called off for the day, less than 20 minutes before scheduled liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, due to inclement weather. It has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 p.m.

ABC’s Mark Remillard reports for ABC News Radio:

If all goes well on Saturday, the SpaceX Demo-2 launch will send NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station on a Crew Dragon spacecraft propelled by a Falcon 9 rocket.

NASA security helicopter flies past launch complex 39A and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Crew Dragon vehicle on launch day at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 26, 2020.
Gregg Newton/AFP via Getty Image

The launch is historic in part because it ends a nearly 10-yearlong U.S. dependency on Russia for seats to space. It also marks the first time Elon Musk's private space firm, SpaceX, is launching astronauts.

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with Dragon crew capsule is serviced on Launch Pad 39-A, Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
David J. Phillip/AP Photo

Here is the latest on the milestone launch for the U.S. space program Wednesday. All times Eastern.

6:00 p.m.: Jim Bridenstine says there was 'too much electricity in the atmosphere'

The NASA administrator gave brief remarks Wednesday evening after the astronauts had dismounted the spaceship.

"I know there’s a lot of disappointment today, the weather got us,” Jim Bridenstine said. Still, he called it "a great day" for NASA and SpaceX, lauding how the teams "worked together in a really impressive way."

Bridenstine said ultimately, there was "too much electricity in the atmosphere."

"There wasn’t really a lightning storm or anything like that, but there was a concern that if we did launch it could trigger lightning," he said. "In the end the right decision was made."

He called Wednesday's called-off launch a "milestone" in its own right, saying they learned a lot from a full "wet dress rehearsal."

Bridenstine said he is proud of the teams and that on "Saturday afternoon, we are going to do it again."

"Here’s what we know, we are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," he said. "We’re very close."

5:28 p.m.: Trump says he will be back for the launch on Saturday

President Donald Trump tweeted his thanks to NASA and SpaceX for their "hard work and leadership."

The president, who had flown down for the scrubbed launch today, added that he will be back on Saturday for the rescheduled launch.

President Donald Trump signs his name during a tour with Vice President Mike Pence, Karen Pence and first lady Melania Trump, at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 27, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk off Marine One to board Air Force One for a trip to attend the SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2 Launch at Kennedy Space Center, May 27, 2020, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

5:00 p.m.: Jim Bridenstine to provide remarks on today’s scrubbed launch at 5:20 p.m.

The NASA administrator announced on Twitter that they will hold a briefing at around 5:20 p.m., after Behnken and Hurley have exited the Crew Dragon.

4:17 p.m.: Launch scrubbed for the day due to weather

With approximately 20 minutes until liftoff, the launch has been called off for the day due to inclement weather.

There were three weather constraints that prevented liftoff today, including natural lightning, NASA officials said in a broadcast. Unfortunately, they expected all the inclement weather conditions to clear up just 10 minutes after the scheduled launch time today.

While it has been called off for today, the historic launch has been rescheduled for 3:22 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 30.

As of Wednesday morning, the launch mission's executive forecast for Saturday predicted a 40% probability of violating weather constraints. If weather also impedes Saturday's launch, the astronauts and team will try again on Sunday.

3:54 p.m.: Launch escape system is armed, ready for propellant loading

The launch escape system is armed and it’s a “go” for loading the fuel, it was announced on NASA’s broadcast.

With liftoff less than an hour away, currently, all systems are a “go” except for the weather.

3:35: Weather at Kennedy Space Center remains an issue

Less than an hour before launch, it remains unclear if the weather will clear up enough for the launch to go through today.

At just past 3:30 p.m. ET, NASA said the range for weather was still “red,” meaning they can’t launch under these conditions.

NASA is currently launching balloons to check conditions.

A “Go, No Go,” count is expected at 3:48 p.m. ET.

In the morning, the launch mission's executive forecast predicted a 50% probability of violating weather constraints.

3:25 p.m.: How the mission is honoring the Class of 2020

One of the objects the crew will be bringing to the ISS is a mosaic of thousands of images of the class of 2020, NASA and SpaceX announced.

The 100,000 images of recent graduates were compiled together into the image of planet earth.

“Congratulations to all of our 2020 graduates!” NASA said in a tweet.

3:05 p.m.: Chris Cassidy shares message from the ISS

NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy, the lone American currently aboard the ISS, said he will be watching the the arrival of his "friends" Benkhen and Hurley from out of his window.

"I’m very excited that two close friends will be arriving and joining the crew," Cassidy said. "I can’t tell you how exciting it is to know that we’re once again launching Americans from the coast of Florida."

"I can't wait to look out the window and see my friends on close approach," he said. "Go Bob and Doug, I'll see you soon."

2:45 p.m.: Air Force One flies over launch site

Air Force One, carrying President Donald Trump, was seen in NASA's live broadcast arriving at the launch site.

The president is flying in to watch the launch, which is currently less than two hours away.

The last president to witness a launch from the Kennedy Space Center was Bill Clinton in October 1998.

2:20 p.m.: Elon Musk calls launch 'a dream come true,' shares what he said to astronauts

PHOTO: SpaceX founder Elon Musk (L) wears a face mask while standing next to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Kennedy Space Center on May 27, 2020.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk (L) wears a face mask while standing next to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley walked out of the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on May 27, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In comments on NASA's broadcast of the launch, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk called the day "a dream come true" for him and everyone at SpaceX.

"When starting SpaceX in 2002, I really did not think this day would occur," Musk said.

He called the day the culmination "of 100,000 people working incredibly hard to make this day happen."

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine added that "a lot of folks said it couldn't be done."

"SpaceX can do things that NASA historically has not done," Bridenstine said, noting how the private space company will "test, fail, fix, fly" until everything is in order ahead of the historic launch with astronauts today.

Musk said he felt extra responsibility when he saw the astronaut's family members.

Musk said he told the astronauts, "we've done everything we can to make sure you guys come back okay."

2:10 p.m.: Astronauts wrap up communications check

After strapping into their seats, Behnken and Hurley did a series of communications checks from inside the spacecraft.

All systems appeared to be working and the astronauts could communicate clearly with the teams on the ground.

From inside the capsule, Hurley said they are "feeling great" ahead of the launch.

2:00 p.m.: Astronauts get strapped into the capsule

After giving "air hugs" to their friends and family, Behnken and Hurley strapped into their seats in the Crew Dragon.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken wave as they walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Pad 39-A, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 27, 2020.
John Raoux/AP Photo

Vice President Mike Pence, donned in a mask, also greeted the astronauts and their families as they headed into the Crew Dragon.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken greet their families as they head to Pad39A before the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 27, 2020.
Joe Skipper/Reuters

1:50 p.m.: Astronauts suit up and head to the launch pad

Behnken and Hurley suited up ahead of the launch, in the same room where the first crewed Apollo mission astronauts got into their gear.

“The suit is really one part of the bigger Dragon system, it’s really part of the vehicle,” Chris Trigg, SpaceX’s space suits and crew equipment manager said. “The suit and the seat are working together.”

The suits were designed by SpaceX’s team in California.

12:45 p.m.: Weather forecast for launch includes chance of showers, possible thunderstorms

These storms could bring gusty winds, heavy rain and lightning which would not be favorable conditions for the launch.
ABC News

The weather forecast ahead of the launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, includes a chance of some showers, possible thunderstorms, and potentially, some electrically charged clouds.

Major weather concerns ahead of the launch are rain and lightning. Residual electrical charges from leftover thunderstorms might interact with the rocket which has a charge itself as it goes through the troposphere and can cause trigger lightning, according to ABC News' chief meteorologist Ginger Zee.

As of Wednesday morning, the launch mission's executive forecast predicted a 50% probability of violating weather constraints.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted just after noon on Wednesday that they will continue monitoring downrange weather, but are still proceeding towards a 4:33 p.m. launch.

"We are a go for launch!" Bridenstine wrote.

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