"We are preparing for launch today," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted on Saturday. The launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, postponed Wednesday due to bad weather, is therefore again scheduled for this Saturday at 3:22 p.m. (7:22 p.m. GMT, 9:22 p.m. Paris time) from the Kennedy center in Florida. NASA also added that the risk of cancellation due to bad weather remains 50%. Philippe Henarejos, editor-in-chief of the magazine Ciel et Espace , recalled on Europe 1 why this flight is important scientifically but especially politically for the United States.
We are moving forward with launch today. Weather challenges remain with a 50% chance of cancellation. #LaunchAmerica- Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) May 30, 2020
"A political first"
"This is a political rather than a scientific first: the Americans found it extremely difficult to digest the fact of having to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz (launchers) to access the International Space Station (ISS), which they nevertheless contributed to build. Each American astronaut cost approximately 70 million dollars for the voyage ", recalled Philippe Henarejos.
It was therefore decided under the Obama administration that "access to the low Earth orbit would be left by NASA to private industries: there is SpaceX and Boeing," said the editor. For the moment, SpaceX seems more advanced since "Boeing carried out an unmanned flight which was not entirely satisfactory. They missed the mooring with the ISS, so there is certainly a test flight to redo ", he recalls.
Americans will no longer depend on Russians
The Falcon9 rocket produced by the company of the American billionaire Elon Musk also has an advantage compared to Russian launchers, it is largely reusable, explains Philippe Henarejos. "When the first stage has propelled the whole ship to orbit, after 2min 30, it will separate and perform all maneuvers on its own to brake and return to the surface of the ocean where a barge is already posted and where it’s going to land. This first stage, which represents the bulk of the rocket and fuel mass, will normally be reused for another mission. "
>> Watch Bernard Poirette's morning show in replay and podcast here
It is the Crew Dragon capsule in which the two astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, will be installed, which will continue its journey to the ISS. If it is certified safe after the launch on Saturday, the Americans will no longer depend on the Russian Soyuz to access space, which since 2011 were the only space taxis available.
The Kennedy Center, where the rocket will leave on Saturday if the weather permits, is also the place from which the first men to take off on the Moon had taken off between 1969 and 1972; a symbol for the United States. A further postponement remains possible until the end of the countdown, like last Wednesday.