NASA and SpaceX gear up for launch of 4 to International Space Station | Space

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Keeping tabs on uncertain weather, mission managers decided Saturday to press ahead with an attempt to launch three astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut on a flight to the International Space Station.

Crew 8 commander Matthew Dominick, co-pilot Michael Barratt, Jeanette Epps and cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin planned to strap into their Crew Dragon spacecraft around 9 p.m. EST to await launch from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 11:16 p.m. EST.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft stand poised atop pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center earlier this week awaiting launch on a mission to deliver three NASA astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station. Credit SpaceX.

If all goes well, the rocket’s reusable first stage, making its maiden flight, will fly itself back to landing at the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station after boosting the upper stage and Crew Dragon out of the lower atmosphere. The Crew Dragon is expected to be released to fly on its own 12 minutes after liftoff.

NASA and SpaceX originally targeted launch for early Friday, but high winds and rough seas in the Atlantic Ocean, where the crew might have to splash down in an abort, prompted a two-day delay. Offshore conditions were still marginal Saturday, sources said, but mission managers opted to press ahead with the countdown.

Assuming an on-time launch, the Crew Dragon “Endeavour” is expected to catch up with the space station Sunday, moving in from behind and below. After looping up to a point directly in front of the outpost, Endeavour will press in for an autonomous docking at the lab’s forward port at 2:15 p.m.

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