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SpaceX to make 2nd attempt at landmark launch of NASA astronauts today

Entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX will make a second attempt at its maiden manned spaceflight to launch two NASA astronauts into orbit on Saturday. The first launch on May 27 had to be aborted 17 minutes before liftoff due to bad weather.

NASA scientists plan to make an earlier decision on weather in order to avoid unnecessarily tiring out the crew – Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken- with another suit up and full day of launch preparations, according to Reuters.

However, on Friday, NASA said the chances of a Saturday liftoff were 50 percent. The weather forecast is predicting a thunderstorm, reports news agency AFP.

“Back-to-back wet dress rehearsals” disrupt the astronauts’ sleep cycles, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine told a Friday news conference.

Behnken and Hurley, veterans of two space shuttle missions each, have been in quarantine for more than two weeks and have been regularly tested for Covid-19.

In case the weather holds and there aren’t any other technical or other snags, SpaceX’s 24-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket will blast off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 3:22 pm EDT (1922 GMT), carrying Hurley and Behnken in the Crew Dragon capsule to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) after a 19-hour-flight.

If successful, not only will this be the first attempt by a private company to send astronauts into orbit, but the SpaceX flight will also be the first time American astronauts will be launched into space from US soil since NASA ended its shuttle programme in 2011.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were present at the Kennedy Space Center to witness the first launch attempt on Wednesday. Trump said he plans to return for Saturday’s retry.

For Elon Musk, the launch represents the next step for the reusable rockets his company SpaceX has pioneered to make spaceflight less costly and frequent, according to Reuters.

And it would be the first time that commercially developed space vehicles – Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule – will carry American astronauts into space.

The success of the mission, named Demo-2, will also pave the way for privatisation of space travel.

If the mission, named Demo-3, is scrubbed again, the next launch window would be Sunday afternoon, with weather forecasts appearing somewhat more favoruable for that day.

If the mission is scrubbed again, the next launch window would be afternoon of May 31, with weather forecasts appearing somewhat more favourable for that day.

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