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Forecast for SpaceX’s first astronaut launch aligns with typical wet Florida afternoon

45th Weather Squadron give 40% chance of good launch weather

A SpaceX Falcon 9 at KSC launchpad 39A during a static fire test on May 22, 2020. (Image: SpaceX)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 at KSC launchpad 39A during a static fire test on May 22, 2020. (Image: SpaceX) (WKMG 2020)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Five days ahead of the highly anticipated SpaceX launch of NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken weather officers with the U.S. Space Force have released the first launch forecast and it looks like a typical spring day in Florida with possible afternoon showers.

SpaceX is slated to launch the Falcon 9 rocket with its Crew Dragon capsule -- with the astronauts inside-- from Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A on Wednesday at 4:33 p.m. on the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station.

The 45th Weather Squadron issued the first forecast five days out giving a 40% chance of good launch conditions for the window.

Cloudiness, rain and isolated thunderstorms are expected throughout the day, which could lead to a delay.

News 6 Meteorologist Jonathan Kegges said the main concern will be possible lingering clouds and offshore lightning from a wet Monday and Tuesday.

“We could have lightning out at sea and maybe weak thunderstorms developing well inland along a weak sea breeze Wednesday afternoon,” Kegges said.

However, the forecast does not include recovery conditions if an abort is triggered and the Crew Dragon needs to be recovered at sea. Those conditions would include wind and wave height to make a recovery safe for rescuers and the astronauts.

[RETURN TO SPACE: America’s first astronaut launch in 9 years: How did we get here? | Chance of weather scrub on Crew Dragon astronaut launch day ‘very high,’ SpaceX officials say]

Kegges weighed in on what recovery conditions are looking like five days ahead of the launch.

“The weather is looking abnormally good over the Mid to North Atlantic. Waves are expected to be relatively low from the Cape all the way to Ireland,” Kegges said. “Wind at the surface or in upper levels looks great for launch.”

The recovery range runs all the way from Florida’s Coast to Ireland. The capsule can splash down at sea anywhere if something happens to trigger a launch abort, which would send the capsule away from the rocket to safety.

The launch will not go if weather violates the limits at splashdown in case of Dragon launch escape downrange, according to the criteria for launch NASA released earlier this week.

“Downrange weather is monitored at more than 50 locations along the ascent track along the North American eastern seaboard and across the North Atlantic,” according to NASA. “Probability of violation is calculated for each location including limit conditions for wind, waves, lightning, and precipitation.”

The 45th Weather Squadron will issue a new forecast on Sunday and continue to update the forecast closer to the launch. Should the launch delay the backup window is May 30.

Over Thursday and Friday, SpaceX and NASA conducted a flight-readiness review clearing the way to launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nine years.

At the end of the review, NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said there were no current issues which gives SpaceX an interim human rating certification.

“Today’s review went a long way to certify the system for crewed flight,” Jurcyk said.

SpaceX also successfully conducted a static fire test Friday, firing up all nine of the rockets engines on the pad.

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