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All eyes on SpaceX for upcoming space station supply launch from Cape Canaveral

Launch set for 3:59 a.m. Wednesday from LC-40

A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket on its operational cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station lifts off from space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket on its operational cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station lifts off from space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Moving past a recent setback with its astronaut capsule, SpaceX will focus its efforts on launching supplies Wednesday morning for astronauts living and working on the International Space Station.

Falcon 9 will launch the cargo Dragon space capsule from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Liftoff is slated for 3:59 a.m.

SpaceX conducted a test fire of the rocket's nine Merlin engines Saturday morning on the launch pad. The company later confirmed the new May 1 launch window in a tweet.

Air Force weather officials are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable launch conditions. Cloud cover and light rain are the only concerns during the instant launch window.

Although this will mark the 17th cargo re-supply mission for Elon Musk's company, no departure off this planet is ever routine, including for SpaceX, which frequently launches from Florida and California.

Last Saturday, while SpaceX was conducting preparations to launch commercial crew astronaut capsule Crew Dragon, on an abort test, the spacecraft suffered an anomaly, sending red-hued smoke above Cape Canaveral that could be seen for miles. The same capsule had recently returned after its first uncrewed test launch and docking at the International Space Station.

The cargo Dragon and Crew Dragon are different capsules with some similarities. NASA selected Crew Dragon and Beoing's Starliner spacecraft to fly U.S. astronauts from the Space Coast to and from the International Space Station. Both companies are working toward certifying their spaceships to fly people.

SpaceX is leading the investigation into the fiery mishap with NASA participation. However, the chair of NASA's independent Aerospace Safety Advisory panel said Thursday during a quarterly meeting the cause of the problem will determine the effect on the flight test with crew, currently slated for July.

The anomaly did not affect the planned cargo resupply launch, according to SpaceX and NASA, but it may affect the landing of Falcon 9's booster. SpaceX had planned to land the hardware back at Cape Canaveral on Landing Zone 1, which is where the recent mishap occurred.

Since SpaceX is in the early stages of investigating the cause of the incident, preserving that site is essential. Landing a booster there wouldn't help that process.

News 6 partner Florida Today reports SpaceX is considering moving the landing to its droneship, Of Course I Still Love You, off Florida's east coast.

After launch, Dragon will reach the space station Friday. Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will grapple the cargo ship with the space station's robotic arm for docking.

CRS-17 Launch details

When: May 1 at 3:59 a.m.
Where: Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
Landing: The booster will return for landing. It was planned to touch down at Cape Canaveral but will mostly likely now land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean after the Crew Dragon mishap last week at SpaceX Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral.
What’s on board: The cargo Dragon capsule filled with supplies for the International Space Station.


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