Here’s what you need to know:

When is the launch, and how can I watch it?How’s the weather looking today?Who is blasting off?What are they flying in?What about those spacesuits they’re wearing?Image
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, atop a Falcon 9 rocket, on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday. 
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, atop a Falcon 9 rocket, on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday. Credit…Steve Nesius/Reuters

When is the launch, and how can I watch it?

On Saturday, for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in July 2011, NASA astronauts are scheduled to blast off from American soil on an American rocket to the International Space Station. In contrast to astronaut launches in the past when NASA ran the show, this time a private company, SpaceX, will be in charge of mission control. The company, founded by Elon Musk, built the Falcon 9 rocket and the capsule, Crew Dragon, which the two astronauts will travel in.

The mission is scheduled to lift off at 3:22 p.m. Eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Coverage of the launch on NASA Television began at 11 a.m.

The Times will also provide live video of the launch.

How’s the weather looking today?

ImageOminous clouds seen from Titusville, Fla., where a crowd gathered on Wednesday to watch the launch.Credit…Charlie Riedel/Associated PressNot the most promising. Weather forecasts currently give a 50 percent chance of favorable conditions at the launch site. The next opportunity on Sunday is slightly better, with a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions; if that doesn’t work, they will try yet again on Tuesday.

Lifting off in bad weather can be catastrophic to rockets. During the countdown, about 10 members of the 45th Weather Squadron, part of the United states Space Force, keep a close eye on conditions to see if they fall within predetermined launch criteria. If the weather conditions violate the criteria, SpaceX’s launch director will call off the launch.

The biggest concern is lightning — a bolt of electricity can zap crucial electronics, leading to loss of the rocket.

Rules prohibit launches for 30 minutes after lightning is observed within a dozen miles of the launchpad or along the trajectory the rocket will fly.

There is danger even when no lightning is flashing in the sky. As a rocket zooms through a turbulent cloud full of electric charge, it can trigger a lightning strike. That is essentially the same thing as when you zap yourself with static electricity.

Such a lightning bolt occurred during the launch of the Apollo 12 moon mission in 1969. One of the engineers in mission control remembered there was a switch that essentially rebooted the computer. The astronauts flipped it, and the mission successfully continued.

After Apollo 12, new launch rules were added specifying the minimum distance of various types of thunderstorm clouds from the launchpad.

For the Crew Dragon launch,

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Title: SpaceX Launch: Live Updates
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/05/30/science/spacex-launch-nasa.html
Published Date: Sat, 30 May 2020 15:51:29 +0000

 

 

 

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