Another month, another attempt to see the SpaceX CRS-3 mission launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It had already had been quite the crazy trip. It had started with a 6am flight, followed by a sprint through the Orlando airport, and a race to the press credential building before it closed. We had already gotten to cover the press conferences for the launch, and then report live the announcement of SpaceX leasing the historic Pad 39A. All that was left to do was head out to the NASA Causeway to set up our cameras 3.6 miles from the launch pad (as close as you can get) and watch it soar into the sky.
Then, 65 or so minutes before the launch, the voice came over the countdown net:
“As those that have heard on the anomaly net, we have encountered an issue and will be scrubbing for the day.”
You will not go to space today, again.
For as few people that pay attention to it, heading to space is still not that easy. A saying from the media during the Apollo era was that going to the moon had become routine, but here we are 40 years later, and launching a rocket is still nowhere as easy as turning the key in your car.
However, having this many scrubs is not as unusual as it would seem either. The space shuttle only launched on-time about 40% of the time. Of that 60% that were delayed, more than half were because of technical issues, while around 30% were because of weather constrains. Yes, we are now headed into our 4th launch attempt for this mission, but the Falcon 9 rocket that is used by SpaceX has only done 9 launches overall.
The real urgency come now because of how late the cargo on this rocket has become, and because of recent issues that have popped up on the ISS over the last few days. Last week, one of the backup computers for part of the ISS failed to turn on and now presumed dead. To replace this computer, the astronauts currently on the ISS need to do a spacewalk. However, replacement parts are needed for all but one suit currently on the ISS, and these parts (and a brand new suit) are currently sitting in the cargo hold of this rocket.
However, while the rocket launch was unsuccessful, I did get to be a part of something quite historic. A few hours before we headed out to the causeway, our bus first headed for Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for a special announcement.
There, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, KSC Director Bob Cabana, and SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell announced that a 20-year exclusive lease had been signed between SpaceX and NASA to operate off of Pad 39A. Additionally, SpaceX announced that they would launch their first Falcon-heavy rocket and first manned missions from the pad.
Hearing this news was very exciting for two reasons. Firstly, there has not been a single launch from KSC since the end of the shuttle program back in 2011. Right now all of the current launches are technically at the Cape Canaveral Air Station next door. And secondly, it will be the first time that astronauts will be launched from US soil since the shuttle program too. No more having to send our astronauts to Russia to get to space!
However, the most amazing part is that I got to report all of this news, live, in-person, inside the perimeter fence at the pad itself. And got to shake all of their hands and say hello.
You know, nbd.
So yes, I once again spent three days in Florida, getting a sunburn and unsuccessfully trying to watch a rocket launch. However, once again, NASA gave me an amazing opportunity to space-geek out and watch history be made. Not to mention, have a chance to see all the amazing friends I made during the previous attempt.
For now, the next attempt for the launch has been set for this Friday, April 18th at 3:25pm EDT.
But unless I win the lottery before then, I think I will be watching it from my computer at home this time around.