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Weather could again hold up SpaceX attempt to launch NASA astronauts

Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 could liftoff at 3:22 p.m. from Kennedy Space Center but weather remains in question

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – After the first try was scrubbed due to weather, SpaceX could again attempt to launch two NASA astronauts on its Crew Dragon spacecraft this weekend, however, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the final decision will come Saturday morning, hours before liftoff, after another hard look at the weather.

On Wednesday, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken made it all the way to 17 minutes before liftoff from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A before the launch was scrubbed. The delay came after a stormy day on the Space Coast, which included a tornado warning, lightning and heavy rain.

SpaceX and NASA teams conducted a flight readiness review Friday ahead of a second attempt. On the technical side, things look good, as Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon are healthy and ready for launch, NASA officials said.

“Mission teams were ‘go’ for a second launch attempt,” according to NASA’s update but a decision about the next attempt is up to the weather.

Bridenstine said Friday in a tweet: “No decision on weather right now for Saturday’s test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. Will reassess in the morning."

If teams move ahead, Saturday’s launch is scheduled for 3:22 p.m. A Sunday attempt would happen at 3 p.m. and NASA said there is an additional backup date on Tuesday, June 2, if needed.

SpaceX and NASA launch teams will hear the latest weather projections from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron on Saturday morning before making the call to launch.

According to the latest launch forecasts from the 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 50% chance of good launch conditions Saturday and 60% on Sunday.

[MORE COVERAGE: Where to watch SpaceX Crew Dragon launch on the Space Coast]

Bridenstine stressed Friday, the launch will happen when everything aligns.

“We’ve all been in agreement that there will be no pressure, we will launch when we are ready,” he said.

There are a lot of factors at play before any launch to the International Space Station, including the schedules of the astronauts living on board, the weather and spacecraft traffic on the station.

The launch window is also instant -- it either goes or it doesn’t.

“There is always always always going to be uncertainty,” Bridenstine said. “We could wait another week and we can see that the weather is going to be good.”

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 that NASA astronauts have launched from Florida.

With the new launch time occurring on a weekend, Space Coast officials predict an even larger number of people will attend than the first try.

Shortly before SpaceX scrubbed Wednesday’s scheduled launch, hundreds of spectators gathered close together on the A. Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville hoping to witness space history.

Besides blocking a lane of traffic that police tried to keep open for emergency vehicles, some have questioned whether the crowd was practicing proper social distancing to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

[ASTRONAUTS WAITING ON RIDE: Here’s what NASA astronauts are doing between launch attempts]

In addition, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex reopened on Thursday after closing more than two months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the initial reopening, the capacity to the visitor complex is capped at 50% and guests are required to have a timed ticket to help limit the number of people in one area at a time.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence said they plan to attend the second attempt when it happens from Kennedy Space Center.

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