Elon Musk’s SpaceX is due to undertake a second attempt at launching two astronauts into orbit.
The first attempt was aborted because of bad weather, with fewer than 17 minutes remaining on the countdown clock to launch. The relaunch is expected to happen on Saturday at 3.22pm (9.22pm GMT), although it is dubious as to whether forecasts will allow it.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted on Saturday morning that there is a 50% chance the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket will go ahead.
We are moving forward with launch today. Weather challenges remain with a 50% chance of cancellation. #LaunchAmerica— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) May 30, 2020
The mission, launching from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, would be the first of its kind from US soil in nine years. It is a key test of whether SpaceX will be able to pull off missions to and from the space station.
It is also a milestone in Musk’s drive to make space travel less expensive, marking the first time a commercially developed spaceship will have carried Americans into orbit.
If the launch attempt is delayed again, SpaceX will retry it on Sunday.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley plan to spend 19 hours in orbit, riding the company’s Dragon capsule to the space station.
Commercial space flights are a competitive area, with Boeing (BA) also producing a rival launch system. Its CST-100 Starliner is expected to fly with astronauts on board for the first time next year.
President Donald Trump visited the launch site for the first attempt, and is set to return for the second.
Bridenstine offered high praise for Musk on Friday. Personal touches included trendy spacesuits, Tesla rides to the launch pad, and a colour-coordinated rocket and capsule.