CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA officials said today that the SpaceX's Halloween astronaut launch for the agency will not be affected by a massive solar flare that's scheduled to reach Earth this weekend.
The launch is set to blast off at 2:21 a.m. EDT (0621 GMT) on Sunday (Oct. 31), and you can watch the launch and prelaunch action live at Space.com. As part of the mission, four astronauts — NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron along with European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer — will strap into a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and blast off on a six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Agency officials, along with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, discussed the upcoming flight with reporters on Friday (Oct. 29), saying that the mission was on track to launch early Sunday morning. When asked about how a massive solar flare will affect the mission, Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said that it would not affect the launch at all.
On Thursday (Oct. 28), a powerful X1-class solar flare erupted from the sun, sending a massive cloud of charged particles hurtling toward Earth. That cloud should arrive over Halloween weekend, slamming into the Earth's atmosphere. It's expected to amplify the regular northern lights caused by the sun's solar wind. Fortunately for NASA, it doesn't pose a threat to the launch; the main cause for concern is weather along the abort corridor.
Forecasters at the 45th Space Delta continue to predict favorable conditions here at the launch site; however, it's a different story downrange. SpaceX and NASA have to monitor weather in multiple areas in case something goes wrong during the flight and the crew needs to abort.
Agency and weather officials say they will continue to monitor the weather for now, but are still on track for an early morning liftoff on Halloween.