After a day of suspense, the first manned flight of the American company SpaceX was postponed from Wednesday to Saturday due to bad weather, while two NASA astronauts were installed in the capsule on top of the rocket that would take them to International Space. Station (ISS).
“Dragon, SpaceX: Unfortunately, we’re not going to launch today,” the SpaceX launch director at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida told astronauts aboard the Dragon Crew, 17 minutes before the scheduled lift time.
“It was a great team effort, we understand,” replied astronaut Doug Hurley, who was within two hours, tied to his seat next to teammate Bob Behnken, on top of a Falcon. 9 rocket.
It took ten minutes for the bad weather to disappear, according to SpaceX, but the risk posed by rain and lightning was too great, and the 4:33 pm firing window was tight, to coordinate the Dragon’s orbit on the ISS.
The next attempt will be on Saturday at 3:22 pm
“Everything was probably a bit disappointing,” Doug Hurley said afterwards, sympathizing with the crews on the ground, who have been waiting for this moment for years.
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley should have landed on the ISS on Thursday.
President Donald Trump has come to personally witness what NASA calls the dawn of a new era in space.
This milestone is the culmination of 18 years of effort for SpaceX.
“It was a dream come true, I never thought it would happen,” said Elon Musk, who founded the company in 2002 in California, prior to the planned launch.
Before boarding the capsule, the astronauts were able to say goodbye to their families. To their two sons, Elon Musk promised, “We did everything we could to bring your fathers back.”
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have been in quarantine for two weeks.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the flight was maintained and tourists and enthusiasts settled on the beaches of the Florida coast.
“We took every possible precaution to see this massive event,” said Kyle Rodriguez, an engineer who specializes in robots, who arrived with his wife Monday from San Francisco. “Tickets aren’t expensive.”
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., founded to break the rules of the game in the aerospace industry, has gained the trust of the largest space agency on the planet in succession.
In 2012, it became the first private company to dock a cargo capsule to the ISS, which it has regularly delivered since then. Two years later, NASA ordered the following: to send its astronauts there, from “2017”, by adapting the Dragon capsule.
“If I make a mistake, it will be my fault,” Elon Musk told CBS.
The space agency has paid more than three billion dollars for SpaceX to design, build, test and operate its reusable capsule for six future space round trips. Development had delays, explosions, problems with parachutes, but SpaceX defeated the giant Boeing, also paid to make a capsule (Starliner), still not ready.
The investment, decided for payload under the Bush presidency and for Barack Obama’s astronauts, is considered fruitful compared to the tens of billions that previous systems developed by NASA were worth.
“A monumental achievement”, so much so that Jim Bridenstine, boss of NASA, pays tribute to the creativity and perseverance of the company, to which it now entrusts its most important resource, its astronauts.
Crew Dragon is a capsule like Apollo, but in the 21st century. Touch screens have replaced buttons and joysticks. The interior is dominated by white, the lighting is more subtle.
“For sure all the pilots in the world will have more confidence if you give them a joystick than if you give them an iPad! “, jokes Thomas Pesquet, the French astronaut who may be the first European to travel aboard the Dragon, in 2021.
Nothing to do with large space shuttles, large winged vessels that served from 1981 to 2011.
Unlike the shuttles, which were one of those that exploded in 1986 after takeoff (Challenger), the Dragon can eject in an emergency if the rocket has a problem.
The Dragon Crew’s mission is to reach the ISS, 400 kilometers above sea level, where it can remain anchored until August.
If the capsule returns and is ensured safe, Americans will no longer rely on the Russians to access space: since 2011, the Soyuz has been the only space taxi available. Routes from Florida, with four astronauts on board, will be regular again.
And SpaceX will be free to arrange space trips for tourists, for a ticket that is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars instead.