Crew-1’s dress rehearsal complete; countdown to launch continues
With less than 48 hours until the scheduled liftoff of Falcon 9 and NASA’s Crew-1 mission, all systems appear go on Florida’s Space Coast.The international crew of four consists of NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
The crew completed a major pre-launch milestone today, executing a full dress rehearsal from start of flight day operations through to the Launch Director calling for the GO/NO-GO poll to begin fueling. By performing such an in-depth test, all teams involved in the mission were able to validate the readiness of their systems and personnel.
The two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket which will carry Crew-1 to space was initially scheduled to take to the skies Saturday evening, but was shifted 24 hours back to Sunday, November 15, 2020 due to offshore weather conditions. When it does fly at approximately 7:27 p.m. EST (12:27 a.m. +1 UTC), it will mark the beginning of the first operational mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft following its human rating certification. “Resilience”, as it has been named, will be the second Crew Dragon to carry personnel to the International Space Station, the first having been named “Endeavour”, which launched as part of the Demo-2 mission on May 30, 2020.
While weather has been a concern in the weeks and days leading up to this weekend’s launch, it did not stop the SpaceX teams at the Cape from preparing and rolling the launch vehicle out to Kennedy Space Center’s historic pad Launch Complex 39A. Following its November 9 arrival at the pad, the Falcon 9 was moved to the vertical position and was successfully static-fired on Wednesday, November 11.
The importance of a static fire test, which sees all 9 main Merlin engines briefly ignited and brought up to power while the rocket remains held down at the pad, is that it ensures that all firing systems and engines themselves are functioning nominally and as expected. This is of particular importance just now, as SpaceX confirms correct operations of all first-flown first stages prior to launch, following the discovery of an performance-degrading anomaly associated with some manufacturing residue on certain engine components.
While additional updates will follow, current weather forecasts indicate only a 30% probability of violating the strict launch weather constraints. The current flight rules of concern are the Cumulus Cloud rule and the Flight Through Precipitation rule.
Note: Story has been updated to take into account a 24-hour delay, announced by NASA on Friday afternoon, November 13, 2020.
Sean Costello is a technology professional who also researches, writes about and speaks publicly on the inspiring lessons within international space flight program. Prior to joining SpaceFlight Insider in early 2014, Costello was a freelance photographer and correspondent covering shuttle-era Kennedy Space Center launches for various radio and print news organizations.