Astronauts first trip on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon pushed back to Saturday

A tornado warning sounded in Cape Canaveral as people ventured to watch the first crewed flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule. And although Wednesday's launch was postponed until Saturday, the new weekend slot may make the event even more accessible.
By | Published: May 27, 2020 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

The Dragon Crew capsule atop the Falcon 9 rocket on the morning of May 27, the day of the first attempt of the launch.

NASA/Joel Kowsky

At T-minus 17 minutes until launch, NASA decided the Florida weather wasn’t going to cooperate in time for astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to safely make a historic launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

When it does eventually launch (now planned for this weekend), the mission will mark a milestone in U.S. spaceflight, as it will be the first time an American-built spacecraft took off from American shores carrying American astronauts since 2011. It will also be the first time a private company successfully ferries astronauts to space.

However, that milestone must now wait at least a few more days.

Weather was a factor throughout Wednesday, and NASA closely monitored the changing conditions. At one point, a tornado warning was issued for Cape Canaveral as people ventured out to watch the launch. The warning was canceled later in the day, but the weather didn’t clear up enough for a safe blastoff.

The launch has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 p.m. EDT, when NASA will try once again to safely reach low Earth orbit — and, on the following day, the International Space Station (ISS).

Once aboard the ISS, Hurley and Behnken will be hard-pressed to follow the 6-foot rule, as they’ll be sharing extremely close quarters with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, the sole American currently aboard the ISS. Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are also currently aboard the station. During their trip, Hurley and Behnken will testing autonomous docking systems on the Crew Dragon, as well as performing experiments while on the orbiting station.

For now, NASA hasn’t set a return date for the pioneering pair. Instead, the Crew Dragon will stay docked with the station until NASA announces the end of Hurley’s and Behnken’s missions.

Besides bringing the astronauts to the ISS, the Crew Dragon is carrying a few special payloads, including a series of custom art pieces called “Human Kind,” as well as a mosaic made of photos of graduates (at all levels and locales) from the class of 2020.

And even though today may have served as a dress rehearsal, that may make Saturday all the more exciting. After all, at least now you don’t have to take a break from your workday to catch a historic moment in human spaceflight.