SpaceX and NASA complete historic launch successfully

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3:34 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

LIFTOFF!: Astronauts launch toward orbit from US soil for the first time in a decade

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket just lit its engines, and astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are now soaring into the upper atmosphere.

Soon, the first-stage rocket booster will detach, and the second-stage of the rocket will light up its own engine — and that will accelerate Behnken and Hurley's capsule to orbital velocity.

No astronauts have made this journey after launching from the United States since NASA's Space Shuttle Program retired in 2011

Watch:

4:25 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

Astronauts say their goodbyes before liftoff

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

The astronauts on board Crew Dragon just shared a final exchange with mission control:

  • Mission control: "Know that we’re with you, have an amazing flight, and enjoy those views of our amazing planet."
  • Crew Dragon: "It is absolutely our honor to be part of this huge effort to put the United States back in the launch business. We’ll talk to you from orbit, thank you."

3:21 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

Last steps to liftoff

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

SpaceX is almost done loading the fuel onto the rocket.

Not many checks or milestones remain before liftoff.

At Kennedy Space Center, the nerves are palpable at the press site.

After spending much of the day wondering if the weather would dash another day of preparations, the latest updates have given today's mission a new sense of reality.

The countdown clock has already passed the mark where it stopped at on Wednesday.

6:36 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

SpaceX chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell made her first appearance on the NASA-SpaceX webcast.

Shotwell, one of the first dozen employees to join the company, handles most of SpaceX's day-to-day operations.

"I stopped getting nervous for launches — today I'm nervous again. Stomach in throat."
3:22 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

Weather isn't in the clear quite yet: 70% chance of liftoff

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

The "go/no-go" poll involves several check-ins among flight controllers, weather officials and mission control.

And during the first poll, which happened about 45 minutes left on the countdown clock, weather officials gave the answer everyone wanted to hear: The forecast is looking good right now.

But things can still change. If at any time, the weather shifts and violates some of the pre-set rules for conditions, the launch could be called off.

Officials will continue monitoring the weather closely until about a minute before liftoff, when the rocket's automated computers take over.

Hear more:

3:22 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

Fueling has begun: About 30 minutes to liftoff

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is now being loaded up with more than 1 million pounds of fuel.

The rocket uses two types of fuel: RP-1 (or "Rocket Propellant 1, a type of refined kerosene) and LOX (or liquid oxygen) — which serves as an oxidizer to keep the engine burning after liftoff.

LOX is made of oxygen made so cold it turns liquid, and after it's loaded, viewers will be able to see what looks like steam or smoke emanating from the rocket. That's just the super-chilled oxygen boiling off the side of the rocket as the surrounding air heats some of the excess LOX.

3:22 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

Crew Dragon abort system is armed

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

The abort system is now armed on Crew Dragon, which means that if anything goes wrong with the rocket from now on, astronauts Bob Bhenken and Doug Hurley will be able to make an extremely speedy exit.

Crew Dragon is equipped with special engines — called Super Draco thrusters — that are designed to blast the crew capsule away from a malfunctioning rocket, taking the astronauts to safety.

That special capability is one reason why NASA says SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is much safer than its predecessor — the Space Shuttle.

2:44 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

Weather is: GO!

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Mother Nature appears to be on SpaceX's side today.

The launch teams just finished the initial "go/no-go" poll, and it's all systems go.

There was questionable weather earlier in the day. But as the launch controllers checked in before fueling the rocket, weather officials said they were in the clear.

"We've been waiting for those words since Wednesday."

SpaceX's John Insprucker said they remain cautiously optimistic that conditions will remain acceptable all the way to launch time.

The chance of a weather scrub is also much better at 30%. Earlier in the day, weather officials had given a 50-50 probability.

2:32 p.m. ET, May 30, 2020

The astronauts are ready. The rocket is ready. But is the weather?

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

"We're optimistic right now. Conditions have been improving."

The astronauts said they are "go" for launch. And all the technical checks went smoothly this afternoon.

The big question is still whether the weather will hold up, and the latest update is expected in just a few minutes.

The NASA and SpaceX teams will have to decide, based on how the whether looks now, whether to move forward with fueling the rocket.