The third time, the astronauts are prepared to travel on a private rocket into space.
At the beginning of Friday, SpaceX, the rocket company started and run by Elon Musk, is scheduled to carry out its latest mission for NASA, bringing in two American astronauts, one Japanese and a Frenchman went to the International Space Station. It will be a continuation of the space agency’s successful attempt to transfer the business of low-Earth maneuvers to the private sector.
SpaceX went on a demonstration mission with two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, a year ago. The two then flew into the Atlantic in August. They were traveling on the same cabin, called Endeavor, which would fly on Friday.
Months later, SpaceX performed what NASA called the first regular operational mission for the Crew Dragon spacecraft with four astronauts on board. That mission, Crew-1, was launched in November, and the astronauts were still on the station.
Now it’s the second active mission, known as the Crew-2.
When will it launch and how can I watch it?
The launch is scheduled for Friday at 5:49 am Eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Both NASA and SpaceX will report on the marathon mission starting at 1:30 am, from the moment the astronauts prepare to the moment they launch.
Why was the launch delayed by a day?
The Crew-2 premiere is set for Thursday morning and the weather at the launch pad has been very smooth. But mission managers also have to take into account the conditions in the Atlantic where Crew Dragon capsules will be dropped if something goes wrong during launch. There, NASA and SpaceX decided, the wind and the waves were too high.
The weather report for Friday morning predicted a 90% chance of favorable conditions at the Kennedy Space Center. Conditions in the Atlantic are expected to be better on Thursday.
What will happen during the trip?
Hours before launch, the astronauts started getting acquainted with their trademark SpaceX space suit with the help of technicians. Then, they parted ways with the family and launched a launch pad on Tesla Model X SUVs (A little cross-marketing between SpaceX and Tesla, both run by Mr. Musk.)
After reaching the launch pad, the astronauts boarded and spent hours working with mission control to confirm that its systems were ready for flight.
The launch was timed as the space station’s orbit passed Florida. When the capsule reaches orbit, it will be just behind the space station but move faster in lower orbit. That allows Crew Dragon to catch up to dock at 5:10 a.m. on Saturday.
During the 23-hour flight, the astronauts will change into their space suit, eat a meal or two, take a break, and provide updates on mission controls.
Once the capsule arrives with the station – an automated process – it will then take several hours of testing to ensure there are no air leaks before the hatch opens and the Crew-2 astronaut lands.
Who are the astronauts?
The Crew-2 astronauts will spend six months at the International Space Station.
Akihiko Hoshide by JAXA, the Japanese space agency. Mr. Hoshide, 52, has made two space trips before. He was a member of the space shuttle Discovery crew in 2008, and in 2012 he spent four months on the space station.
Shane Kimbrough by NASA. He. Kimbrough, 53 years old, is the commander of Crew-2. He has made two previous trips into space, once aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in 2008 and then spent more than six months on the space station from October 2016 to April 2017.
K. Megan McArthur by NASA. Dr. McArthur, 49, flew aboard the space shuttle Atlantis in May 2009 on a final mission to refurbish and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. During that mission, Dr. McArthur, a trained oceanographer, operated the shuttle’s robotic arm to grab the telescope and place it in the cargo hold.
Dr. McArthur was married to Bob Behnken, one of the astronauts who went on a first space travel flight of the same SpaceX capsule last year. She will take the seat he took on that flight.
Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. Mr. Pesquet, 43, previously spent six months on the space station from November 2016 to June 2017, overlapping with Mr. Kimbrough during most of his stay. He is from France.