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Where to watch tomorrow’s SpaceX-NASA Crew-2 launch

Four astronauts in space suits, laughing.

From left to right, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur prepare to depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A – at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – during an April 18, 2021, dress rehearsal prior to the Crew-2 mission launch on April 22. Image via credit Aubrey Gemignani/ NASA/ Space.com.

Go for launch! NASA has given SpaceX the official consent for sending its next crew mission to the International Space Station (ISS). That mission, called Crew-2, will be the second flight of this particular Crew Dragon, and SpaceX’s third overall crewed orbital flight. It will blast off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 6:11 a.m. Eastern (10:11 UTC) tomorrow morning, April 22, 2021, from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The excitement will be live-streamed via NASA TV, starting with a “countdown clock briefing” for the SpaceX Crew Dragon Crew-2 mission, currently scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Eastern today (12:30 and 13:00 UTC). Check NASA TV listings for the scheduling of the livestreams, which will run periodically until its undocking and splashdown next Wednesday.

Riding aboard the Dragon for the April 22 launch will be four veteran astronauts: Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide. Their capsule is named Endeavour. It first carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the space station last year for the Demo-2 test flight.

The mission will also be the second flight for the first stage booster, which previously ferried the Crew-1 astronauts to the space station last year.

A Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are pictured standing vertically, in position for liftoff on a cloudy morning.

A Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are prepared for the launch of the Crew-2 mission on launchpad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, April 19, 2021. Via Stéphane Corvaja/ ESA/ Space.com.

The teams went through their checklists and only left one minor issue to work through prior to liftoff. According to Space.com, one of those issues was concerning how much liquid oxygen is loaded onto the launch vehicle. Falcon 9 relies on two components to fuel its trips to space: rocket-grade liquid kerosene and liquid oxygen. According to Bill Gerstenmaier, the vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, the teams detected a small discrepancy concerning unexpected amounts of liquid oxygen.

But then over the weekend, both Falcon and Dragon passed two big tests: a static fire test and a dress rehearsal (full systems test) with the crew. Both exercises were executed flawlessly and the mission received the green light to proceed with Thursday’s early morning liftoff. 

And then yesterday during a prelaunch news conference, Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight at SpaceX, said that the liquid oxygen issue had been resolved. Reed added:

It’s a very exciting time, and we’re looking forward to a successful mission.

Forecasters at the 45th Space Wing’s Weather Squadron are calling for an 80% favorable chance of liftoff in the predawn hours on Thursday. The only cause for concern at this time are liftoff winds. Brian Cisek, a weather officer, said in Tuesday’s news conference:

It’s been very rainy here on the space coast in the days leading up to launch, but fortunately, a high pressure system will be moving in on Wednesday, and that should clear out the storms.

Space.com reported:

The team at the 45th Space Wing monitors a set of 10 weather constraints on launch day, plus any additional constraints set by the specific launch provider. These include electric field rules, thick cloud rules, and the potential for cumulus clouds, to name a few. But SpaceX also has its own set of constraints that deal with how much precipitation the rocket can fly through and things like upper-level winds.

SpaceX also has to monitor ocean conditions at the landing zone to make sure that the booster can safely land on the drone ship.

All of these factors together determine the “go for launch” signal for this mission and other commercial crew missions. If all goes as planned, and the weather continues to look good, then viewers can look for a predawn liftoff this Earth Day morning. Otherwise, Cisek says there is a backup opportunity on Friday morning, and the weather looks equally as promising for it.

Bottom line: Crew-2, the second flight of this particular Crew Dragon, will blast off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 6:11 a.m. Eastern (10:11 UTC) tomorrow morning, April 22, 2021, from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The action will be live-streamed via NASA TV.

Read more from EarthSky: SpaceX Crew-1 docks successfully with ISS

Via Space.com

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