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




9.20pm Wednesday update: Tonight’s launch has been called off due to bad weather. There will be a further attempt to launch at 8.20pm (UK time) on Saturday. See the updated timings for May 30 here.

Gaze to the skies tonight and you could get a glimpse of a spacecraft carrying two NASA astronauts.

Subject to the weather conditions being right, private space company SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will blast off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre carrying NASA crew members Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken inside the Crew Dragon Spacecraft.

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
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

About 15 minutes after launch, you may be able to witness the spacecraft flying over the UK as the astronauts head for the International Space Station.

This is historic, because it is the first commercial launch of astronauts into space by a private company.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX built the spacecraft as well as the rocket, so the launch represents a new era in space travel.

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. But Tropical Storm Bertha could cause delays to the launch.

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

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

  • 9.20pm Look out for the International Space Station passing over. Look west, to the right of the moon. It’s bright and quite fast moving.
  • 9.33pm The launch - watch it live below. Then turn your eyes to the skies...
  • 9.48pm About 15 minutes after launch, we could glimpse the spacecraft passing over. It will follow the same path as the International Space Station as the astronauts look to hook up to it.

Watch the launch live here

The launch is due to take place at 9.33pm our time (16:33 EDT, 20:33 GMT or 21:33 BST). It is subject to the weather conditions being right - this afternoon, there was thought to be a about 50-50 chance of launching. If it happens, you can watch the launch live here:

What will happen during the mission

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

On Monday, March 30, 2020 at a SpaceX processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX successfully completed a fully integrated test of critical crew flight hardware ahead of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Picture: SpaceX
On Monday, March 30, 2020 at a SpaceX processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX successfully completed a fully integrated test of critical crew flight hardware ahead of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Picture: SpaceX

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.

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.

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

Updates

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