NASA’s SpaceX first crewed mission delayed until Sunday due to strong winds

Nasa astronauts wearing SpaceX spacesuits rehearse for the launch (Image: NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

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NASA has delayed the launch of the first SpaceX crewed mission to the International Space Station because of bad weather.

The crew, consisting of one Japanese and three US astronauts, was scheduled for lift-off on Saturday but it was postponed to Sunday due to winds which could interfere with the safety of operations.

The launch was moved to just after midnight on Monday morning UK time "due to onshore winds and first stage booster recovery readiness".

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the news on Twitter, saying the mission is now due to start at 7:27pm EST on Sunday, November 15.

For NASA, it will mark the beginning of using private firms as a "taxi service" to fly its crew to and from the space station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and GPS payload at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
(Image: Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC/Sipa USA)

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"The history being made this time is we're launching what we call an operational flight to the International Space Station," Mr Bridenstine told reporters at a press conference yesterday. 

The US space agency announced this week that it had certified SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to carry astronauts, making it the first commercial human spaceflight system in history.

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said: "This is a great honour that inspires confidence in our endeavour to return to the Moon, travel to Mars, and ultimately help humanity become multi-planetary."

It comes after a demonstration flight in May which was the first time a crewed mission took off from US soil since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the delay on Twitter
(Image: JimBridenstine/Twitter)

This meant NASA has depended on Russia's space agency Roscosmos to transport its astronauts to the space station, at a cost of around 90 million US dollars (£67m) per seat.

In 2014, it awarded SpaceX and Boeing contracts to provide crewed launch services to the space station as part of its Commercial Crew Program.

The SpaceX certification ends NASA's reliance on Russia and comes with a price of about 55 million US dollars (£40m) per astronaut.

Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA, said in a statement: "NASA's partnership with American private industry is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more science and more commercial opportunities.

The launch was moved from Saturday to Sunday
(Image: REUTERS)

"We are truly in the beginning of a new era of human spaceflight."

Back in May, Elon Musk's company made history when it became the first private company to send humans into orbit.

US astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley travelled to the space station and back as part of a mission to demonstrate SpaceX's capability to safely perform crewed missions.

The current mission, named Crew 1, will see the Crew Dragon capsule carry NASA's Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, as well as Japan's Soichi Noguchi, to the space station.

(Left to right) Astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi will spend six months on the orbiting space laboratory
(Image: NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

The astronauts will spend six months on the orbiting space laboratory, conducting scientific experiments and performing various other tasks.

The crew is now due to blast off from the Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 00:27 UK time on Monday.

Shortly after lift-off, the Falcon 9 rocket will separate into a first stage and a second stage.

The first stage will return to a SpaceX landing ship stationed off the coast of Florida, while the second part of the rocket continues the journey with the Crew Dragon.

Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon will separate from the second stage and travel at around 17,000mph.

The craft is expected to dock with the space station after a journey set to last around nine hours.

The astronauts will join three other space station residents – NASA's Kate Rubins and Russia's Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov – to become part of the Expedition 64 crew.

Meanwhile, NASA's other taxi service for hire, Boeing, is not expected to fly its first crew until next summer.

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