With the historic launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon scheduled for this Wednesday at 4:33 p.m. eastern, there are a few things you should look for and know before the rocket blasts off from pad 39A in Cape Canaveral Florida.
First, this rocket has flown before — the first stage has already launched and landed successfully before. SpaceX has been pioneering the use of reusable rockets for several years now and this stage is again, expected to land on the drone ship named “Of Course I Still Love You.”
Second, there are phrases and words used by the broadcasters that you may not be familiar with, and “drone ship” is one. The launch window is instantaneous, so the rocket has to launch exactly at 4:33 p.m. If it needs to, the next window is Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m.
This is so the Crew Dragon can connect with the ISS in orbit.
Third, the Crew Dragon is the capsule that astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will ride in to get to the ISS. Once in orbit, they will do maneuvers and test the capsule’s performance in microgravity.
Both astronauts have flown on two missions on the space shuttle before, and are some of NASA’s most experienced astronauts.
After liftoff, as the rocket is gaining altitude, you will hear a term used called Max Q. Max Q is when the spacecraft is experiencing maximum dynamic pressure. Think of it like this, the vehicle is moving so fast through the air, that the dense air ahead of it is putting stress on the rocket. So at this point, they will throttle down to slow down their acceleration until the air is thin enough to speed back up.
There are two propulsion stages for this rocket. The first stage is to get it off the ground and above much of the atmosphere. Stage two is smaller and lighter, to propel the crew to match the ISS’ orbit.
It takes under 10 minutes from launch to landing of stage one, so stick around and make sure you don’t miss that.
This mission’s duration is 30 to 119 days. If during launch they need to abort, the rocket will be flying over the Atlantic Ocean for a water landing.
Finally, hopefully the weather will corporate for Wednesday’s launch and make sure you tune in to WAVY-TV 10 for our broadcast of the launch. Also, if you want to watch the launch of its entirety, then tune in to NASA TV or on the SpaceX Youtube Channel.
Meteorologist Jeff Edmondson