Editor's note: SpaceX has delayed the launch of its Crew Dragon in-flight abort test flight to Sunday, Jan. 19, at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). Read our full story.
SpaceX (opens in new tab) will launch its Crew Dragon spacecraft on a critical abort test Sunday morning (Jan. 19), and you can watch it live online.
The private spaceflight company will use an expendable Falcon 9 rocket (opens in new tab) to launch the uncrewed spacecraft from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8 a.m. EST (1300 GMT). If the test flight, known as an in-flight abort, is successful, it will prove that the Crew Dragon has what it takes to keep onboard astronauts safe in the event of an emergency during launch.
You can watch the launch live here on Space.com (opens in new tab), courtesy of SpaceX, beginning at about 7:40 a.m. EST (1240 GMT). You can also watch the launch directly from SpaceX here (opens in new tab), or from NASA here (opens in new tab). NASA's webcast will begin at 7:45 a.m. EST (1245 GMT).
This is SpaceX's second launch of the year and the second in just two weeks. The mission will also mark the third time SpaceX has flown a Falcon 9 first-stage booster for the fourth time; this booster previously hoisted the first satellite for Bangladesh (opens in new tab), an Indonesian communications satellite (opens in new tab), and more than 60 satellites as part of a rideshare mission (opens in new tab).
This test is the last major milestone SpaceX must complete before it can launch astronauts to the International Space Station (opens in new tab). The company successfully launched an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the space station in March 2019, as part of a mission called Demo-1 (opens in new tab). That spacecraft was later destroyed during ground testing (opens in new tab) of the abort system.
SpaceX made upgrades to the spacecraft to prevent such an anomaly from happening again, and then performed subsequent tests that showed the abort system was ready (opens in new tab) to be tested in flight.
The Crew Dragon capsule is equipped with special abort engines that will pull the spacecraft away from its rocket if there's an anomaly during flight. In October 2018, a similar abort system on a Russian Soyuz rocket carried NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to safety when their booster failed during flight (opens in new tab).
Shortly after liftoff on Saturday, onboard software will intentionally trigger the spacecraft's launch-abort system midflight. That system, which comprises eight SuperDraco (opens in new tab) abort engines built into the spacecraft's hull, will pull the Crew Dragon free of its launcher before performing a parachute-aided ocean landing. (opens in new tab) A recovery vessel will be standing by to scoop up the Crew Dragon and return it to land.
SpaceX is one of two commercial companies (Boeing is the other (opens in new tab)) that NASA contracted to build private space taxis to fly astronauts to and from the space station. Boeing's astronaut-toting spacecraft, called Starliner (opens in new tab), recently completed its own orbital flight test. However, that spacecraft suffered a mission clock failure (opens in new tab) that prevented it from reaching the space station.
Weather conditions are predicted to be between 50% and 40% favorable for the launch Sunday morning during the planned 4-hour window, according to the U.S. Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron, which performs weather assessments for space launches. "The primary weather concern is flight through precipitation," launch weather officer Mike McAleenan said during a prelaunch news conference at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Friday (Jan. 17).
SpaceX originally hoped to launch the mission on Saturday, but strong winds and ocean waves that could potentially impede Crew Dragon's recovery after it splashes down in the Atlantic prompted a 24-hour delay.
SpaceX has a six-hour window in which to launch Crew Dragon on Sunday. The company also has another backup launch opportunity on Monday, Jan. 20 at the same time.
Editor's note: This story, originally posted Jan. 17, has been updated to reflect SpaceX's launch delay.
Visit Space.com (opens in new tab) for complete coverage of SpaceX's in-flight abort launch.
- SpaceX's Crew Dragon Demo-1 test flight in pictures
- Watch how SpaceX's Crew Dragon will launch astronauts into space (video)
- In photos: A behind-the-scenes look at SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship