On Saturday at 3:22 p.m. ET, NASA and SpaceX will reattempt their joint mission to launch astronauts from Cape Canaveral in Florida to the International Space Station. President Trump said he’ll return to Florida for the second attempt.
The task is especially complicated because, not only does the forecast at the Cape Canaveral launch pad (and the surrounding area) need to meet certain criteria, but so does the weather thousands of feet into the atmosphere along the flight path.
The East Coast and North Atlantic must be free of active weather, in case the astronauts are required to abort the launch and splash down into the ocean.
The weather at the ocean’s surface, monitored by buoys, ship data and satellites, can’t be too turbulent.
Residents in Florida are no strangers to daily thunderstorms, especially in summer, with so much sun and moisture in the air.
This tropical air mass and circulation added to the development of thunderstorms, and there were plenty of lightning strikes within 10 miles of the launchpad.
“We had showers and thunderstorms all day yesterday around Cape Canaveral, even a tornado-warned storm before the launch, so obviously they had to scrub it,” Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday.
Satellite imagery shows the extent of lightning in the area at the time of the first launch attempt.
Thunderstorms in the vicinity also had outflow boundaries or gusty winds that spread away from it and easily threatened the launch.
And those thunderstorms have cold cloud tops that extend tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere, where air temperatures are well below freezing and can cause ice crystals to interfere with the rocket.
Saturday afternoon’s forecast is more favorable for launch, but far from perfect.
Scattered thunderstorms will develop in the afternoon as is common this time of year, but should be less numerous than on Wednesday.
Meteorologists will again monitor conditions closely, but a launch is not a sure bet.
“Unfortunately, we’re looking at more showers and thunderstorms in the forecast,” Dean said Thursday morning. “This forecast actually looks worse than it did yesterday.”
There’s roughly a 40 percent chance of scattered storms on Saturday afternoon, compared to a 70 percent chance during the initial launch window on Wednesday.
Fox News’ Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.