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Poor weather could postpone historic SpaceX launch

SpaceX and NASA are gearing up for a historic mission today, but poor weather conditions around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida could cause the launch to be postponed.

The Weather Channel said that stormy weather conditions over Florida could force SpaceX to switch the launch time from the currently scheduled 1:33 p.m. PT. As of Wednesday morning, there’s a 60% that favorable weather conditions will remain around Kennedy Space Center, allowing the launch to proceed.

As of 9:30 a.m. PT, the launch hadn’t been scrapped. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted, “We are go for launch!”

The much-anticipated mission will see astronauts take their place for the first time in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. It’ll also be the first astronaut launch from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. But as always with long-planned space missions, lousy weather could cause unwanted disruption on launch day.

“A tropical disturbance that has brought heavy rain to southeastern Florida the past few days will have pushed north of the state by Wednesday,” the Weather Channel said. “But Florida’s typical late-May warmth and humidity will remain in place, making hit-or-miss afternoon thunderstorms possible near Kennedy Space Center in the hours near launch time.”

It also noted how the weather systems for the whole of the U.S. and Canadian coasts to the North Atlantic Ocean need to be stable in case astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley need to perform an emergency escape procedure, which would see the Crew Dragon ejected from the Falcon 9 rocket, due to an anomaly in the minutes after launch.

NASA has various launch weather criteria to ensure a safe rocket launch. They include, for example, “Do not launch for 30 minutes after lightning is observed within 10 nautical miles of the launch pad or the flight path, unless specified conditions can be met.”

If the launch has to be postponed due to poor weather, SpaceX has backup launch windows for Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. ET, and Sunday, May 31 at 3 p.m. ET.

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