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When to watch the May 30 SpaceX launch and see Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts in skies above UK




A second attempt will be made tonight (May 30) by NASA and SpaceX to launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying two astronauts towards the International Space Station - and you could get a glimpse of them flying over UK skies.

The first attempt on Wednesday May 27 was scrubbed shortly before launch due to unfavourable weather conditions that led to concerns of a lightning strike.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020. Picture: NASA
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020. Picture: NASA

Elon Musk, the CEO of private space company Space X, tweeted earlier today that there was about a 50 per cent chance of the same outcome tonight.

But if conditions are right, NASA crew members Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken and their Crew Dragon spacecraft, will lift-off with the aid of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 8.22pm UK time (3.22pm local time) today (Saturday May 30) - and you can watch it all unfold below.

As the spacecraft passes overhead, there will then be a chance to see it over our heads.

The first pass will be about 15 minutes after take-off, as on Wednesday, but this time the skies in the UK will be too light to make out the spacecraft.

However, if the skies stay clear, the second pass should be visible from 10.15pm, shortly after the pass of the International Space Station.

All the timings: When and how to see the International Space Station and Crew Dragon spacecraft

Here what to look for tonight (Saturday May 30):

  • 8.22pm - Watch the launch live below.
  • 10.11pm - The International Space Station is due to appear in the west at about 10.11pm. It’s very bright, easily visible and moves quite fast. It will pass high overhead, heading south-south-east, and will disappear after about five minutes.
  • 10.15pm - Crew Dragon should be visible, if skies are clear and you have a clear view to the horizon and look again to the west. It will be low, and head to the east. It should appear like a satellite - a small white spot moving across the sky for a few minutes.

Watch the NASA/SpaceX launch of Crew Dragon and the Falcon-9 rocket live here

Why the launch is historic

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon atop, stands poised for launch at historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 21, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. Picture: NASA/SpaceX
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon atop, stands poised for launch at historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 21, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. Picture: NASA/SpaceX

This will be the first commercial launch of astronauts into space by a private company - Elon Musk’s SpaceX built both the spacecraft as well as the rocket.

This means the launch represents a new era in space travel, as since 2011, NASA has been reliant on buying a ticket aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its astronauts to the International Space Station.

Demo-2, as it is known, is another step towards future missions to the Moon and Mars.

What will happen during the mission

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley will launch to the International Space Station on the Demo-2 mission. Picture: SpaceX/Ashish Sharma
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley will launch to the International Space Station on the Demo-2 mission. Picture: SpaceX/Ashish Sharma

In orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will test the environmental control and life support systems, the maneuvering thrusters and thermal control systems.

Crew Dragon will perform phasing manoeuvres to position itself for rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station.

The spacecraft is autonomously capable of docking, but the astronauts can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.

When the mission is concluded, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board the spacecraft and leave the International Space Station.

The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft became the first Commercial Crew vehicle to visit the International Space Station in March 2019 during NASA’s SpaceX Demo-1 mission. Here it is pictured on March 3, 2019, with its nose cone open to reveal its docking mechanism while approaching the station’s Harmony module. Picture: NASA
The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft became the first Commercial Crew vehicle to visit the International Space Station in March 2019 during NASA’s SpaceX Demo-1 mission. Here it is pictured on March 3, 2019, with its nose cone open to reveal its docking mechanism while approaching the station’s Harmony module. Picture: NASA

They will jettison the trunk and conduct a ‘deorbit burn’ for about 12 minutes, before the Dragon re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, splashing down off Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

The Dragon and the astronauts will be recovered by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.

Updates

Read more

UPDATE: Watch SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft dock with the International Space Station - and hear from NASA astronauts

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