On Friday afternoon, SpaceX will be launching its Dragon space capsule into Earth's orbit on a resupply mission to the International Space Station as long as Mother Nature cooperates. The mission also includes another attempt to land a rocket on a barge in the Atlantic.
The weather is looking good for Friday's rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with Air Force meteorologists anticipating an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather conditions.
As long as the weather remains favorable, the Dragon will take flight at 4:43 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 8 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station located along the east coast of Florida.
"Mostly sunny and dry conditions will prevail for the launch on Friday, but there will be a gusty breeze," AccuWeather Meteorologist Andrew Mussoline said.
The gusty wind on the launch pad is the primary weather factor that could cause the launch to be delayed. If sustained winds on the launch pad reach or exceed 30 knots, SpaceX will push back the launch attempt to 4:20 p.m. EDT on Saturday.
Winds higher up in the atmosphere can also complicate rocket launches as they can cause the rocket to have control problems, but these winds are also anticipated to remain below the maximum threshold acceptable for launch.
High winds in the upper atmosphere were the culprit behind a delay during SpaceX's most recent mission to space.
Friday's launch will be an unmanned re-supply mission to the International Space Station, delivering supplies and scientific experiments to the station.
One of the experiments will be the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM. This is an expandable capsule that will be attached to the space station and will test the usage of expandable habitable areas for future space missions, such as a mission to Mars.
According to NASA, "Expandable habitats, occasionally described as inflatable habitats, greatly decrease the amount of transport volume for future space missions. These 'expandables' weigh less and take up less room on a rocket while allowing additional space for living and working."
The SpaceX mission, called the CRS-8, is the eighth contracted mission that SpaceX is carrying out for NASA. The last contracted mission, called CRS-7, was on June 28, 2015, and is known for exploding minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX will also attempt to land the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket on a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean down range of Cape Canaveral.
If the company can land the first stage of the rocket intact, it will be the first time for a successful landing of a SpaceX rocket on a barge. This would be a huge step forward in their goal of being able to reuse rockets to greatly reduce the cost of spaceflight.
AccuWeather Meteorologist and Staff Writer Brian Lada will be reporting live from the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday and Friday.
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