Satellites track Tropical Storm Bertha ahead of historic SpaceX launch

UPDATE: SpaceX's first attempt to launch the Demo-2 mission on Wednesday (May 27) was scrubbed due to bad weather. The next launch try will be on Saturday (May 30) at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT). 

As SpaceX counts down to its historic first launch of astronauts for NASA, weather is a concern. Now, satellites are tracking the newly formed Tropical Storm Bertha just off the South Carolina coast. 

NASA and SpaceX were already eyeing potential thunderstorms and foul weather in Florida for today's (May 27) historic launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. There is currently a 50% chance of bad conditions at liftoff, which is scheduled for 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT). 

NASA satellites are now watching Bertha barrels as it barrels into the southeast United States for any potential weather impacts to today's launch.

Full coverage: SpaceX's historic Demo-2 astronaut launch explained

Tropical storm Bertha nears Florida as it hits the U.S. coast.  (Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-East GEOCOLOR)

Bertha formed near the coast of South Carolina this morning and will continue to move through North Carolina and parts of Virginia. With the tropical storm, "Heavy rainfall will be the biggest threat, along with tropical storm force winds along portions of the South Carolina coast," the National Hurricane Center wrote on Twitter

NASA's powerful weather satellite GOES-East has been observing the growing storm from space, to let us here on Earth know how to best respond. The storm formed from a tropical disturbance that satellites spotted near Florida this past weekend. The growing storm has dumped showers and bad weather throughout Florida, but Bertha will hit South Carolina and parts of North Carolina the hardest, according to The Weather Channel

Veteran NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have been preparing to launch to space today aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule as part of the Demo-2 test flight to the International Space Station. But it looks like launch day will have a hefty dose of bad weather as the storm rages on in the southeast U.S.

"Teams are closely monitoring launch and downrange weather," SpaceX said on Twitter today. Demo-2 is set to make history as the first crewed launch to orbit from the U.S. in nearly a decade, or since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011. 

While a storm near Florida on launch day might be bad news, NASA already made weather a major limiting factor in deciding if the mission would take off today, before Bertha ever even existed. Both NASA and SpaceX have already set a backup date so, if the mission cannot take off today due to the storm (or for any other reason), Demo-2 will launch a few days later, on May 30. 

Email Chelsea Gohd at or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.