It was a tight decision, but immediately before the long-planned launch of a SpaceX rocket with a capsule with two astronauts on board, the weather was too bad to continue: The SpaceX launch director stopped at 16 minutes and 53 seconds late Wednesday evening German time the countdown and thus canceled the return of the USA with its own rocket from its own soil after a break of almost ten years. A new attempt is planned this Saturday.
Narrow start window was not enough for SpaceX
Apart from the weather, everything went according to plan on Wednesday. All systems of the Falcon 9 and the Astronaut capsule Crew Dragon from SpaceX were working correctly, the fuel tanks were already filled. If the start had been a little later, the sky over Florida might have been clear enough. But as a NASA presenter explained in a live broadcast, a start cannot be postponed so easily. A maximum of 5 to 10 minutes are possible, then the liquid oxygen in the tanks begins to warm up and its characteristics change, which you especially don’t risk with people on board.
The next window for a flight to the ISS with space company SpaceX, founded by Tesla boss Elon Musk, is now available on Saturday at 3:22 p.m. in Florida, i.e. 9:22 p.m. German time. The prospects for good starting weather were again given as moderate after the cancellation. For the two astronauts, who waited more than three hours in a space suit in the capsule for the start and then for the flap to be opened by outside personnel, the procedure begins anew – and again when it is canceled again.
In a white Tesla Model X, they had previously been driven to their rocket in time for space travel, the capsule of which they climbed over a bridge at lofty heights. After the start cancellation, the two had to stay in it for more than an hour. Because only the fuel was released from the tanks; afterwards the astronauts were allowed to open their helmet visors.
Then it took a while for the NASA cameras to capture a large team in black overalls with hoods and masks in the bridge in front of the capsule. In a complicated operation that, according to the moderator, was practiced many times, they connected the gangway airtight and tampered with the flap with a lot of hand movements and various tools.
Next attempt to return on Saturday
At around 11:45 p.m. German time, the hatch was open and the two astronauts in the Crew Dragon were able to turn their seats towards the exit after a further minute delay for further checks. Assisted by a black figure, Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley loosened their belts and left the capsule one after the other – until the next attempt to recapture space with the help of Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk on Saturday.