A vast area in the Atlantic will need to be covered in case something goes wrong with the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launch.
In less than 8 minutes after the launch Wednesday from Cape Canaveral Space Center, two American astronauts will already be near western Europe hurling close to space if all goes well.
If the unthinkable happens, rescue teams will be staged from Florida to Ireland.
The crew Dragon can only return in a splashdown and NASA has determined 50 locations across the Atlantic appropriate for an abort.
The weather in many of the abort zones will need to meet a threshold for a landing/recovery before committing to Wednesday's launch.
The Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron will determine the possibility of having good launch weather, and make the call no later than noon the day of launch. The backup launch date is on May 30, if it’s scrubbed.
The wellbeing of Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley is at stake. It would take rescue teams an hour to reach an abort which would splashdown in the vicinity of Florida to North Carolina during the first minute after launch followed by the Virginia area over the next two and a half minutes.
If all goes as planned about 2.5 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9's first stage booster will separate from the upper stage and begin preparations for a landing back on Earth.
Waves can not be too big otherwise the returning first stage rocket may not successfully stick its landing back on a drone ship called "Of Course I Still Love You," stationed roughly 300 miles off the coast of Florida.
After eight minutes into flight, any problems would result in crashing into the ocean near Nova Scotia to Ireland. Finally, a final thruster boost propels the capsule into orbit after nearly 9 minutes.
The Falcon 9 rocket will release the Crew Dragon into low Earth orbit about 12 minutes after takeoff. The rocket will then return to Earth where it is scheduled to land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Over the ensuing 19 hours hours, the Crew Dragon will orbit in a manner to catch up with the International Space Station orbit.
NASA has no firm return date for Behnken and Hurley’s stay on the ISS. It’s possible they will be there for a few months, before returning safely via a Florida Atlantic splashdown.