Officials: Only 40% chance of good weather for launch
Never underestimate Florida weather.
As NASA and SpaceX learned Wednesday, when touch-and-go weather conditions took them through almost an entire launch countdown before lingering storms put a stop to America’s return to human spaceflight, Florida weather in the summer is as unpredictable as Florida traffic can be any time of year.
“The weather got us,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine after the launch attempt.
“We had just simply too much electricity in the atmosphere,” Bridenstine said Wednesday. “There wasn’t really a lighting storm or anything like that, but there was a concern if we did launch it could actually trigger lightning.”
The teams are scheduled to try again on Saturday, launching NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket, at 3:22 p.m. And weather will still be an issue.
The U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron puts the chance of favorable conditions at 40% for Saturday and Sunday, the two upcoming back-up dates. A third back-up date has not yet been announced.
In the most recent forecast, the Weather Squadron said it’s primarily concerned with a front that will move closer to the spaceport on Saturday, likely causing rain in the afternoon. That, as well as cloud rule, could spoil SpaceX and NASA’s next attempt.
Any tropical development over the net few days is expected to stay over the open Atlantic, which is another concern for SpaceX and NASA. For a launch to go off, there has to be good weather not just at the Cape but along more than 50 points across the Atlantic to the coast of Ireland where the astronauts may splashdown in the case of an abort mid-flight.
For a Sunday attempt, forecasters are also worried about thicker clouds and rain.
“Although it seems a major change in pattern and a drying trend will be upon us in June, it’s not clear if the timing will be soon enough for Sunday’s attempt,” forecasters said.
Still, the forecast is several days out and can change. For Wednesday, NASA and SpaceX were initially looking at a 40% probability that improved to 60% and ultimately stayed put at 50% on the day of the launch, giving crews a 50⁄50 chance of takeoff.
They chose to stand down about 15 minutes before the scheduled launch time of 4:33 p.m., saying that if they had another 25 minutes or so, the weather would have cleared in time to proceed.
But because the spacecraft is going to the International Space Station, the NASA and SpaceX team have to launch at precisely the scheduled time.
The same will be true on the weekend when they try again.