There were a lot of special details about the scheduled May 27 launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft attached to it. The first manned launch for SpaceX. The first privately-developed craft to take humans all the way to orbit. The first transit launch from the United States to the International Space Station (ISS) since 2011, when NASA’s Space Shuttle Program retired.
But it would have been the Crew Dragon’s second visit to the ISS. In 2019, the craft launched, docked, and returned with its sole passenger intact – a test dummy named Ripley.
This time, it carried a few pieces of special cargo; a piece of artwork made of precious metals, memorializing how far the space program has come, and a mosaic of photos of 2020 graduates from around the world, making an image of the Earth. Both were to be installed aboard the ISS.
More important, of course, is the human cargo. Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, both spaceflight veterans with a combined 1388 hours outside Earth’s atmosphere. They have been in quarantine for the past several weeks, and were moved into the Crew Dragon’s cockpit at nearly 2pm, but they already knew at that point that odds were good weather would cancel the 4:33PM launch. Just shortly after that, a tornado warning was announced, and even with no twisters spotted, most knew that the launch would be canceled. At a quarter after four, the launch was officially called off, and the “scrub sequence” was begun, preparing the rocket and its attendant machinery to be stood down. Behnken and Hurley will return to quarantine, and NASA and SpaceX will try again on Saturday, May 30th.
This launch’s success, whether on Saturday or eventually, is important to SpaceX, who wants to take the government contract for ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS away from the spacecraft Soyuz. Every seat aboard the Soyux costs the American government approximately $55 million, paid directly to the Russian government. How much SpaceX seats will cost still remains to be seen.
Editorial credit: L Galbraith / Shutterstock.com