ORLANDO, Fla, – The Inspiration4 launch attempt of the first all-civilian mission is a week away and with four humans on board, the weather will be even more important. This time around, the weather will be extra tricky, here’s why.
SpaceX plans to launch the four-person crew from Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 15 on a Falcon 9 rocket in the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The capsule will orbit the Earth at an altitude beyond the International Space Station for three days before returning home. The spacecraft will splash down off either the west or east coast of Florida.
Currently, the launch window is after 8 p.m. on Sept. 15 but SpaceX plans to narrow that window in the coming days.
One of the criteria that has to be met is favorable recovery conditions along the flight path in the event of an emergency abort. That includes relatively calm weather and ocean conditions from Cape Canaveral all the way to near Ireland.
Hurricane Larry continues to churn up the Atlantic creating large waves through much of the Atlantic basin. By the time the launch window opens Tuesday evening. Larry would have merged with another system near Greenland and become a non-issue for issue for launch. The waves created by Larry will subside by then, but a non-tropical system will slide off of North America kicking up the waves in the North Atlantic once again.
Forecast wave heights will be in the 8-12 feet range Wednesday morning in the North Atlantic.
Scattered storms will be an issue early and late in the 24-hour launch window.
Due to the nature of this mission, return conditions in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean will also have to be pinpointed prior to the launch. SpaceX has not announced where the spacecraft will splash down yet but recovery crews will need calm seas to safely retrieve the crew.
Being the peak of hurricane season, conditions will have to be watched extremely close for the potential of a quick spin-up storm developing off the Florida coast along a cold front around return day. More tropical activity will also be possible elsewhere in the basin.