Weather iffy for SpaceX astronaut launch

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Of course, SpaceX is not unilaterally focused on Crew Dragon or its inaugural astronaut launch, even if it might be the single most important mission in the company's 18 years of operation.

Over the weekend, the astronauts took part in a full rehearsal of the launch day activities at Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A, the same launchpad used for the Apollo missions to the Moon.

It will be the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011 that US astronauts will launch into space aboard an American rocket from American soil.

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have completed their dress rehearsal for Wednesday's flight to the International Space Station.

A NASA spokesman, Joshua Finch, told AFP that the calculated "loss of crew" probability for the mission is one in 276, which is above the minimum threshold required by NASA - one in 270. A crucial decision point will come at T-minus-45 minutes, when the go-ahead is due to be given for arming the Dragon's launch escape system and fueling up the Falcon 9 rocket with highly refined kerosene and liquid oxygen.

The capsule could make it to the space station quicker than in 19 hours, but astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are to conduct several tests, including flying Crew Dragon manually with its unique, high-tech touchscreen panel.

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SpaceX and NASA will be paying close attention to the weather between now and Wednesday, flagging a backup launch date of May 30 should conditions continue to deteriorate. The U.S.is now having to rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport NASA astronauts to the ISS - and at the unfathomable cost of $US86 ($132) million per seat.

Behnken and Hurley are veterans of the Space Shuttle Program, and both have extensive test pilot and flight experience. In 2016, NASA tapped SpaceX and Boeing to develop crew-friendly orbital capsules, with SpaceX's Crew Dragon being the first to cross the finish line.

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean after sending its payload into space.

A static fire test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, performed on May 22. Before confirming his attendance, Trump joked that he'd like to launch journalists into space to "get rid" of them. While the spacecraft is created to dock autonomously with the space station, the astronauts will be prepared to take control and make adjustments in flight if need be.

A final run-through of the launch on Sunday went smoothly, leading to final approval of a flight on which Behnken and Hurley will dock at the ISS and stay there for an "extended" period during which they'll become part of the ISS Expedition 63 crew. Hurley and Behnken may be called upon to put in a tour of duty that's longer than originally scheduled - and help out with tasks including a couple of spacewalks. In an interview with Aviation Week & Space Technology, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the return was the part of the mission that he was most anxious about - due to the asymmetry of the Dragon's back shell.

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