KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Florida’s weather wasn’t kind to SpaceX Wednesday as Elon Musk’s company attempted to break the dry spell in American astronaut launches from the Space Coast.
From the start, dark heavy clouds loomed over NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Air Force weather officials said there was a 50% chance SpaceX would have good launch conditions for the Falcon 9 rocket.
After a brief tornado warning in Brevard County and some impressive lightning, SpaceX called off the attempt to launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken about 17 minutes before the 4:33 p.m. liftoff.
But the attempt gave SpaceX, NASA and the astronauts, as well as their families, the chance to experience what it will be like to see the veteran astronauts off before they launch on a brand new spacecraft.
It also gave both SpaceX and NASA the opportunity to host a countdown worthy of 2020 filled with social media interaction and live views from Hawthorne, California at SpaceX headquarters and from other NASA properties involved in the launch.
“We had a good countdown,” SpaceX’s John Insprucker said after the scrub.
Countdown coverage from SpaceX and NASA included multiple celebrity appearances, from afar, and live commentary from NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin as well as SpaceX and NASA employees.
“I think our teams worked together in a really impressive way, making good decisions all along,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said after the decision to delay.
Despite the weather, fans came out to Titusville, Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach for a chance to see American astronauts once again launch from U.S. soil. When it does happen, the liftoff will mark the first time since 2011 NASA astronauts have launched from Florida.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were in attendance at Kennedy Space Center hoping to see the historic launch but ultimately the weather sent them back to Washington, D.C. without the moment.
Trump and Pence both later tweeted they will be back on Saturday.
SpaceX has two more opportunities this week to try again. On Saturday, at 3:22 p.m. and again on Sunday at 3 p.m.
The 45th Weather Squadron is predicting a 60% chance of favorable launch weather Saturday.
When the launch does happen, Hurley and Behnken will spend 19 hours on board their new ride to the International Space Station, during which they will test manually flying the spaceship as well as sleeping on board and using the facilities.