NASA and SpaceX were forced to delay the Crew Dragon launch earlier this week due to a tropical storm near the coast of South Carolina. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has now given the green light for Crew Dragon to launch once again with a 50 percent chance of another delay. If the launch goes ahead, it will mark the first flight of NASA astronauts from US soil in nine years.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were selected to lead the mission, dubbed Demo-2, as they blast off towards the International Space Station (ISS).

The astronauts arrived at the Kennedy Space Center’s iconic Launch Complex 39A just after 5pm BST.

The same launchpad saw Apollo fly to the Moon and back as well as 82 launches of the Space Shuttle.

NASA said: “After the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA began the process to transform Kennedy Space Center from a historically government-only launch facility into a multi-user spaceport for both government and commercial use.

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“On April 14, 2014, the agency signed a property agreement with SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, for use of the launch site for the next 20 years.

“SpaceX upgraded and modified the launch pad to support its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.”

Should bad weather get in the way of a safe launch, a second backup window will open on Sunday.

NASA said: “The countdown continues to go well for today’s planned 3.22pm EDT launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test to the International Space Station.”

The countdown continues to go well for today’s planned 3.22pm EDT launch

NASA

What time is the NASA and SpaceX launch in the UK?

The Demo-2 mission is pencilled in to launch at 8.22pm BST (3.22pm EDT, 12.22pm PDT) today.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are already strapped into the Crew Dragon capsule, in a boarding process known as ingressing.

The astronauts, who have previously flown on two Space Shuttle flights each, will spend the hours before launch inside of the capsule.

SpaceX’s teams of engineers will spend this time checking the spacecraft’s systems and will test it for leaks and other issues.

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In the last 45 minutes before the Falcon 9 ignites its engines, SpaceX will fill the rocket with liquid fuel and oxidiser.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is a modified version of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon – a transport vehicle used to resupply the ISS.

Crew Dragon can carry up to seven astronauts at once, although only four at most will fly on NASA missions to the ISS.

The spacecraft was previously tested between January and March 2019, when it remotely launched and docked with the ISS.

Tonight’s launch is one of the last and most critical tests for the privately-run company SpaceX and its chief Elon Musk.

SpaceX launch countdown:

-45:00 – SpaceX launch director verifies go for fuel propellant.

-42:00 – Crew access arm retracts.

-37:00 – Dragon’s launch escape system is armed.

-35:00 – RP-1 rocket grade kerosene loading begins.

-35:00 – First stage liquid oxygen loading begins.

-16:00 – Second stage liquid oxygen loading begins.

-07:00 – Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch.

-05:00 – Dragon transitions to internal power.

-01:00 – Command flight to begin final prelaunch checks.

-01:00 – Propellant tank pressurisation to flight pressure begins.

-00:45 – SpaceX launch director verifies go for launch.

-00:03 – Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start.

-00:00 – Falcon 9 liftoff.

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