“Launch America” is due to blast-off Wednesday, May 27 at 4:33 p.m.
UPDATE: This article on the SpaceX launch time has been updated to include information on how to watch live online with a commentary by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and also how to see Crew Dragon in the night sky over Europe a few minutes after the launch.
Are you ready for “Launch America?” Later today—Wednesday, May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EDT—two US astronauts will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) from US soil, and on a US rocket.
That’s not happened of almost a decade, and it’s going to be a massive, unmissable event. The pandemic means it’s also going to be an event that’s almost entirely staged online.
What is ‘Launch America?’
It’s the culmination of almost a decade’s work to get US astronauts launched to the ISS on a US rocket from US soil. Since the Space Shuttle stopped flying in 2011, NASA has had to pay Russia’s Roscosmos for seats in its Soyuz capsule. However, “Launch America”—officially known as the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission—isn’t just NASA ceasing its reliance on Russia. SpaceX’s provision of all the space hardware—a Falcon 9 rocket and its Crew Dragon capsule—make this also the first-ever crewed commercial rocket launch.
There’s a lot riding on this; specifically, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who are on their way up to the ISS.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is raised … [+]
Will anyone be in Florida to see it live?
Hardly anybody will witness this historic launch. “NASA and SpaceX are discouraging the general public because it is very dangerous to be gathering it in large groups like that,” says Garrett Reisman, SpaceX Senior Advisor and former NASA Astronaut, who thinks that in normal times this event would draw enormous crowds in Florida. “Yes, it’s going to be different, but given all the things that were sacrificing to keep people safe during this pandemic, I think that’s OK.”
Luckily, there’s going to be extensive coverage streamed online as webcasts from SpaceX and NASA, and possibly as live broadcasts on US TV networks.
When to watch ‘Launch America’ streaming live online
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will lift-off at 4:33 p.m. EDT on May 27, 2020, with a backup launch date of May 30, 2020. However, there’s a packed pre-launch schedule of events you can also tune-into.
How to watch ‘Launch America’ streaming live online: SpaceX
Its coverage will begin 45 minutes before launch when the launch director verifies “go” for propellant load at Kennedy Space Center.
How to watch ‘Launch America’ streaming live online: NASA TV
If you want a lot more than just the immediate pre-launch build-up, then head to:
NASA’s “Worm” logo is making a comeback for this mission—here it is on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
How to watch ‘Launch America’ streaming live online with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Thanks to a newly-announced live webcast from New York City’s American Museum of Natural History, you can also join in with a special “Spaceflight Live Watch Party” that features commentary of “Launch America” from Neil deGrasse Tyson. The Hayden Planetarium Director will join Museum astrophysicist Jackie Faherty to discuss the future for human missions to space. At 4:05 p.m. EDT you can watch live on this Facebook page or via this website.
That event will be preceded by a 1:00 p.m. Field Trip: Spaceflight Launch Party in which the Museum’s Director of Astrovisualization Carter Emmart and Faherty explore and experience the thrill of space flight, see the sites, and discover what goes into planning a successful mission to space.
‘Launch America’: what’s going to happen on the day
Here’s what NASA says is going to happen on May 27, as broadcast on NASA TV. All times are in EDT:
- 12 p.m. – First live views of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center—complete with NASA’s iconic “worm” logo that’s being resurrected for this mission.
- 12:15 p.m. – Iconic moments as Hurley and Behnken exit through the famous crew quarters doors about three hours before launch. That stirring sight will be followed by the astronauts climbing into a Tesla Model X for the nine-mile drive to Pad 39A.
- 4:33 p.m. — Countdown and launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon from Pad 39A.
- 6 p.m. – NASA/SpaceX Demo-2 post-launch news conference
The International Space Station (ISS).
When will the astronauts reach the ISS?
That’s due to take place 19 hours later on Thursday, May 28, along with the hatch opening and welcoming ceremony on the ISS. It will all be broadcast live on NASA TV:
- 11:29 a.m. – Crew Dragon docks with the ISS. You can have a go yourself on the SpaceX simulator.
- 1:55 p.m. – Opening of the hatch to Crew Dragon and entrance of the NASA astronauts to the ISS.
- 2:25 p.m. – Welcome ceremony for the astronauts aboard the ISS.
- 4 p.m. – Post-docking briefing from the Johnson Space Center.
How to see Crew Dragon in the night skies above Europe
After a successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral it may be possible to see it in twilight skies over Europe. MeteorWatch reports that Europeans should be outside about 15 minutes after the launch. Get updates from the website’s Twitter feed, @VirtualAstro.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.