- SpaceX is about to launch its highest-stakes mission since Elon Musk founded the company in 2002: Its first launch of people.
- NASA is working with the company to launch the mission, called Demo-2, which will fly the astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley inside a Crew Dragon spaceship.
- Liftoff is scheduled for 3:22 p.m. ET on Saturday, though poor weather and other factors could delay the mission to Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
- SpaceX, NASA, Neil deGrasse Tyson, National Geographic and ABC News, and others will be broadcasting live video coverage of the mission, most of which you can watch online here.
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CAPE CANAVERAL — On Saturday at 3:22 p.m. ET, SpaceX plans to rocket its first people into orbit since Elon Musk founded the company 18 years ago.
If successful, the historic mission would also resurrect NASA’s ability to launch its astronauts to the International Space Station. The US space agency flew its last space shuttle in July 2011 and has relied on Russia ever since to get to and from the orbiting laboratory.
“We have this moment in time where we can unite people again,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said during a press briefing before launch. “The whole world is going to be watching this.”
Demo-2 is launching from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The company pushed for a launch on Wednesday, May 27, going so far as to fuel the Falcon 9 rocket with two astronauts inside the Crew Dragon spaceship on top. However, problematic clouds the threat of lightning forced SpaceX and NASA to scrub the attempt and delay the launch.
The rocket and spaceship carrying Behnken and Hurley has just a second or so to lift off and get on the right path to meet the ISS and stay there for up to 110 days before returning home. So if there’s another delay in the launch on Saturday, SpaceX and NASA can try again at 3:22 p.m. ET on Sunday. The US Air Force 45th Space Wing’s weather officers on Wednesday said there’s a 50% chance of liftoff for Saturday or Sunday’s launch windows.
Though astronauts and other experts take such estimates with a grain of salt, NASA has calculated there’s a 1-in-276 chance the crew may not survive the mission. An advanced emergency escape system will keep the danger to astronauts low during launch, though it can’t help them once they reach space or during reentry through Earth’s atmosphere.
Below are six live video broadcasts of the historic launch that you can watch, some online and some via TV channels. We’ve also provided a NASA timeline of launch-day events at the end of this post so that you can follow along.
NASA TV, the agency’s livestreaming channel, plans to broadcast coverage of Saturday’s launch attempt starting at at 11 a.m. ET. If the mission lifts off and Crew Dragon reaches orbit, NASA TV will show it docking to the space station, its hatch opening, and Behnken and Hurley joining the ISS crew. The agency’s official TV channel also maintains a full and constantly updated schedule of its programming.
SpaceX started its first launch webcast around 12:15 p.m. ET via its YouTube channel. The production was jointly hosted with NASA, but John Insprucker — a top engineer at SpaceX — led the bulk of commentary for the rocket company. SpaceX has not yet said when its next launch broadcast will begin on Saturday.
National Geographic and ABC News Live
Journalists and meteorologists at National Geographic and ABC News covered SpaceX and NASA’s first launch attempt with a two-hour special report that featured interviews with NASA astronauts and officials. Their broadcast on Saturday is set to begin at 3 p.m. ET — considerably shorter because weather has a 50% chance of foiling the launch, according to SpaceX.
Discovery and Science Channel
Both Discovery and Science Channel aired live coverage of SpaceX’s first launch attempt Wednesday on TV and the Discovery Go app. The “Space Launch Live” special featured interviews with both Crew Dragon astronauts’ spouses: the astronaut K. Megan McArthur, who is Behnken’s wife, and the former astronaut Karen Nyberg, Hurley’s wife. The singer Katy Perry also made an appearance. The channels will rebroadcast again on Saturday, according to Discovery’s schedule.
The Museum of Flight will re-broadcast its own live watch party at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Its Wednesday broadcast featured commentary from the retired astronaut Wendy Lawrence, the space-history curator Geoff Nunn, and the propulsion engineer Dieter M. Zube.
Follow along with NASA and SpaceX’s timeline of launch events
The times below are relative to liftoff at 3:22 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Once the crew lifts off, it will take SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship about 12 minutes to reach orbit. Along the way, the Falcon 9 rocket will drop off its first-stage rocket booster (which SpaceX will try to land on a boat and recover), followed by its upper or second-stage rocket.
The capsule’s automated systems or the crew’s manual override could abort the mission at any time on the way to orbit. If there’s any problem, the system should pull the Crew Dragon to safety and splash Behnken and Hurley down in the Atlantic Ocean, where recovery crews will try to meet them within an hour.
-04:15:00 Crew weather brief
-04:05:00 Crew handoff
-04:00:00 Suit donning and checkouts
-03:22:00 Crew Walk Out from Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building
-03:15:00 Crew Transportation to Launch Complex 39A
-02:55:00 Crew arrives at pad
-02:35:00 Crew ingress
-02:20:00 Communication check
-02:15:00 Verify ready for seat rotation
-02:14:00 Suit leak checks
-01:55:00 Hatch close
-00:45:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
-00:42:00 Crew access arm retracts
-00:37:00 Dragon launch escape system is armed
-00:35:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
-00:35:00 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
-00:16:00 2nd stage LOX loading begins
-00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
-00:05:00 Dragon transitions to internal power
-00:01:00 Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
-00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
-00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
-00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
-00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff
00:00:58 Max Q (the moment of greatest aerodynamic stress on a rocket)
00:02:33 First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:36 First and second stages separate
00:02:44 Second stage engine starts
00:07:15 First stage entry burn
00:08:47 Second stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:08:52 First stage landing burn
00:09:22 First stage landing on a drone boat off the coast of Cape Canaveral
00:12:00 Crew Dragon separates from the second stage
00:12:46 Crew Dragon’s nosecone-opening sequence begins
This story has been updated with new information.