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Science / Space

Weather Threatens SpaceX Weekend Astronaut Launch Attempts

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the launch tower
SpaceX
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the launch tower at LC-39A ahead of Wednesday's attempt.

SpaceX will try once again to launch two NASA astronauts from the Kennedy Space Center Saturday but weather could delay the launch once more.

Storms and lightning near KSC forced managers to scrub Wednesday’s attempt the launch of Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley with just 16 minutes left in the countdown.

SpaceX will try once again Saturday to launch the duo on a test flight of the company’s Crew Dragon capsule but weather may once again be a factor. The instantaneous launch is scheduled for 3:22 p.m. ET.

“Thunderstorms are likely to again be in the area of the launch site coming up on Saturday afternoon,” said Florida Public Radio Emergency Network meteorologist Ray Hawthorne.  “The reason why is we have west winds blowing across the peninsula and that tends to cause the storms to congregate near the Atlantic coast.”

The 45th Space Wing forecasts a 50 percent chance of weather affecting the launch Saturday.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the team will get an updated weather briefing Friday afternoon. If weather doesn’t look good, SpaceX and NASA could call off the attempt before the astronauts are suited up Saturday.

“We will feel no pressure. We will go when we are ready. Safety is the highest priority, and that’s what we’re focused on,” said Bridenstine.

SpaceX has another launch attempt Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET, but weather once again will be a factor.

“Slightly drier air is forecast to move in in the middle and upper parts of the atmosphere on Sunday but still there’s going to be a front in the area and enough low level moisture where scattered thunderstorms are possible again Sunday afternoon,” said Hawthorne.

SpaceX is launching NASA astronauts through the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, a $6 billion partnership with private companies to ferry astronauts to the station.

Once they do launch, Hurley and Behnken will be the first to launch from the U.S. since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.