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4 things to watch for with Wednesday’s launch

From weather woes to designer space suits, here’s what you should keep an eye out for.

America’s first astronaut launch in 9 years: How did we get here?
America’s first astronaut launch in 9 years: How did we get here?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time in nearly a decade, human spaceflight from American soil is planned with the launch of the DEMO-2 mission. This historical event is exciting in many ways, from the public-private partnership between SpaceX and NASA, to the return to the International Space Station. Here are four things to watch for with Wednesday’s Launch America.

New Space Suits

Gone are the bulky, orange space suits of the past- the SpaceX space suits were designed by Hollywood super hero suit designer Jose Fernandez of Ironhead Studios. In Ironhead Studio’s resume were the suits for Spiderman, Thor, and Batman.

In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, photo provided by NASA, astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken pose in front of a Tesla Model X at a SpaceX launch dress rehearsal, at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. The NASA astronauts rode to the pad in the Tesla. (Kim Shiflett/NASA via AP) (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Fernandez designed the suits for SpaceX, and then the suits were reverse engineered to be functional and protect the astronauts and make it functional.

Stylish Transport Vehicles

The crew will be transported the 9 miles from Operations to the launch pad in a pair of Tesla X model vehicles, complete with huge NASA logos. The NASA red “worm” logo will be on the rear window with the lower portion of the Falcon 9 rocket.

The “worm” logo was designed in 1975 in an attempt to make a more modern logo. It was later retired in 1992 at which time NASA returned to the more classic logo, named the meatball logo.

The "worm" logo is on the left, the classic "meatball" logo is on the right. (NASA)

Look Ma, No Hands!

Unlike the last orbiter Doug Hurley was on in 2011, Dragon is automated and does not require the astronauts to “fly” it. In fact, Dragon’s first flight in March of 2019 was completely unmanned (DEMO-1.)

“They do have manual controls that they can engage if they need to and they are going to test out the manual control of this spacecraft,” NASA Public Affairs Officer Derrol Nail said.

The astronauts can take manual control if needed, but according to SpaceX, that should not be necessary. From launch to docking at the Space Station will take about 19 hours, leaving the astronauts time to eat, sleep

The Weather

The 45th Weather Squadron, the official forecasters for Launch America, place a 40% chance that weather will potentially scrub the launch, with the primary concerns being flying through precipitation, anvil clouds and cumulus clouds.

Launch weather isn’t the only consideration to take into account. Were the launch to be aborted during the launch itself, in-flight, or in-orbit the astronauts would land in the water and Task Force 45 Detachment 3 would be responsible for recovering Crew Dragon from the ocean as fast as possible. They’ve also been monitoring the wave heights in the Atlantic for this purpose, and that forecast is looking more favorable and improving.