HAWTHORNE (CBSLA) – Elon Musk’s Hawthorne-based SpaceX will have to wait to make history.
Thunderstorms and bad weather Wednesday forced SpaceX to postpone the first launch of NASA astronauts from Florida in nine years. The next launch window is Saturday.
The two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, were scheduled to be aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by a Falcon 9 rocket.
It’s the first commercially-built and operated American rocket and spacecraft. It will also mark the first time that astronauts have been launched from U.S. soil since 2011.
The spacecraft was set to blast off Wednesday afternoon for the International Space Station, ushering in a new era in commercial spaceflight and putting NASA back in the business of launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
SpaceX has had 19 successful cargo launches to the ISS, but this will be the first time it has people aboard one of its spacecrafts, according to CBS News.
Astronauts haven’t launched into space from American soil since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011. Traveling to the ISS is now done aboard Russian Soyuz rockets launched from Kazakhstan.
SpaceX conducted an unmanned test flight of the Crew Dragon capsule in March 2019, sending the spacecraft to the ISS with an array of cargo and a mannequin playfully named Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver’s character in the “Alien” film franchise.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine believes the launch will be a unifying national event at a time of frazzled nerves and heightened political divisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This space program that we have in this country unites people, period,” Bridenstine said. “It always has. We look at the most divisive times in American history. We think about the Vietnam War, the 1960s, not just the war, but the protests. We think about the civil rights abuses and the civil rights protests. The very divisive, challenging times. And here we are all these years later in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and we have this moment in time where we can unite people again.”
Earlier this month, NASA and SpaceX also confirmed that Tom Cruise is planning to shoot a movie on the ISS.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)