Weather conditions to improve for Crew-2 astronaut launch Thursday

SpaceX launching 4 astronauts from KSC Thursday at 6:11 a.m.

The 45th Weather Squadron forecast for the Crew-2 launch on Thursday, April 22. (WKMG 2021)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The rainstorms are expected to pass in time for SpaceX to launch four astronauts from Florida’s coast later this week on a Falcon 9 rocket.

Forecasters with the 45th Weather Squadron issued the forecast for Thursday’s instantaneous launch window at 6:11 a.m. and are predicting an 80% chance of favorable liftoff conditions.

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SpaceX will launch NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, in the Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule from Kennedy Space Center launchpad 39A.

There are certain weather criteria that must be met before the Falcon 9 can blast off.

Following storms for several days, the system causing all the rainy weather will get a nudge from a cold front that will push it south late Wednesday.

There are a few concerns for Thursday’s launch window. Although the rain will begin clearing through most of the late afternoon Wednesday, it’s the winds at targeted liftoff time that will be monitored closely. As high pressure builds, there will be a strong pressure gradient producing strong north winds between 17 and 22 mph.

The primary concern for liftoff will be winds, according to the 45th’s forecast.

Crew-2 launch hazards to watch (WKMG 2021)

If the launch delays to Friday, liftoff winds will be in a more favorable range out of the east at 12-17 mph, but there would be a slight concern for flying through precipitation. As of right now, that concern is low, with an 80% “go” in the forecast. The concern would come if an isolated shower pops up along the coast associated with the return of onshore flow.

However, the weather on land isn’t the only factor that could possibly delay a launch. Forecasters are also looking at conditions at sea in the event the Crew Dragon capsule needs to perform an emergency abort following the launch. If that happens, the spacecraft would land in the Atlantic Ocean anywhere between Florida and Ireland, which is a lot of open sea to monitor.

Forecast wave heights

Currently, waves off the Florida coast in the booster recovery area are forecast to only be in the 1-3 foot range. Seas are also looking relatively favorable downrange in the North Atlantic.

Thursday, April 22 launch forecast (WKMG 2021)

The forecasters are also looking at conditions in the Atlantic Ocean, where SpaceX lands the Flacon 9 booster on a droneship called “Of Couse I Still Love You.” Booster recovery weather risks are moderate Thursday and low Friday.

The U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron issues a launch forecast every day leading up to the countdown.

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About the Authors:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.