Stage separation confirmed
Stage separation is confirmed. The crew is now on its way to the International Space Station.
We have liftoff:
“Resilience rises, not even gravity contains hum
anity when we explore as one for all”, NASA’s presenters have said.
T-4 minutes: strong back retract
The strong back retract has begun.
Clamp arms will open up and release, and the strong back will then retract.
The sound effects of this are incredible – a very spacey, spooky “whoosh” back and forth (a bit like a noisy dishwasher).
This sound is oxygen “hitting the warm, moist Florida air” we have just heard:
T-6 minutes: engine chill begins
Stage 1 engine chill has started. Liquid oxygen is flowing through the turbo pumps on Merlin 1.
With just under 6 minutes to launch, Stage 1 fuel load is complete.
Dragon’s computers will soon take control of the vehicle.
Liftoff will happen at 27 minutes and 17 seconds after 7pm local time.
Stage 2 fuel load is complete.
Stage 1 is 90% complete.
At T-7 minutes the pre-valves will be opened. This will allow a small amount of oxygen in to chill the pumps so that the liquid oxygen does not turn into gas on contact with the turbo pump.
Here is a shot inside the capsule:
“We are honoured to have you as our crew,” Commander Mike Hopkins has told the crew.
The launch today will take 27.5 hours to get to the station.
The day started with a 50% probability of launch, and now that likelihood (which is based on the weather) is 80%.
The only female astronaut on board, Shannon Walker, who has a PhD in space physics, was four years old when she decided she wanted to become an astronaut, we have just heard.
She told Florida Today, “Ultimately, to me being an astronaut means being an explorer to explore the universe so I thought being a physicist wanting to understand the universe and then being an explorer to go out and see it first hand was what I really wanted to do.”
The four astronauts on board are, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).
Noguchi is the first foreign astronaut allowed on a US spacecraft.
T-28 minutes: checks
We’ve just heard that the rain and upper altitude wind are holding off, and the ground winds are light.
The ground operations teams are doing a series of checks.
T-34 minutes: fuelling begins
The fuelling of the Falcon 9 rocket is underway and the launch escape system is armed, which means that the eight “Super-draco” engines built into Dragon are loaded, meaning they can propel the crew away from Falcon 9 to safety in an emergency.
The fuel is kerosene, with an oxidiser.
To ignite the fuel and oxidiser, ignition fluid is used. This fuel gives off a green flash, which we might see tonight.
The Dragon capsule was loaded with propellents a week and a half ago, in what one of the voiceovers on Nasa’s live feed says is an area affectionately referred to as “dragon land”.
T-43 minutes: crew arm retracted
The tunnel that the crew used to climb on board the Dragon has been retracted, in what the voiceover on Nasa’s live feed of the launch called, “One of the last visual milestones we have until launch”:
T-40 minutes: 80% chance of good weather
It’s T-40 minutes as I type, and the four crew members are on board. They are launching out of launchpad 39A, the weather report has been updated to an 80% chance of good weather, and the launch director is awaiting the results of the “Go/no-go poll” or a launch status check.
Propellent loading will occur at T-35 minutes.
Dragon capsule prepares for launch
The SpaceX crew is strapped in and preparing for launch in approximately 45 minutes’ time.
SpaceX is aiming for a Sunday night launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station, although the prospects of good weather were just 50-50 and the company’s leader, Elon Musk, has been sidelined by Covid-19.
If it goes ahead, the launch will be Nasa’s first full-fledged mission sending a crew into orbit aboard a privately owned spacecraft. The company’s newly designed Crew Dragon capsule was set for liftoff at 7:27pm Eastern time (0027 GMT on Monday).
Below is our rundown of what is expected, and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments live in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
You can find me on Twitter @helenrsullivan.