SpaceX Launch is Postponed

Alan Boyle, GeekWire

GeekWire contributing editor Alan Boyle is an award-winning science writer and veteran space reporter. Formerly of NBCNews.com, he is the author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference." Follow him via CosmicLog.com, on Twitter @b0yle, and on Facebook and MeWe.

SpaceX Launch is Postponed

Update: Today's launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon was postponed until May 30 due to concerns about the weather.

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Mission managers have cleared the final paperwork for SpaceX's first-ever crewed launch, aimed at sending two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The stage is now set for the first NASA mission to send humans into orbit from U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.


Only one big question remained after today's launch readiness review, which looked at all the technical issues surrounding Wednesday's scheduled liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"We're burning down the final paper," Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's commercial crew program, told reporters during a teleconference. "All the teams were 'go,' and we're continuing to make progress toward our mission. Now the only thing we need to do is figure out how to control the weather."

The weather forecast called for a 60% chance of scrubbing the launch due to concerns about rain and clouds at the launch site. The weather was rainy at the Cape, but Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer for the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, said the outlook was improving.

"If I was to issue the forecast today, right now, we would probably be down to a 40% chance of violation. … So we have some hope for launch day,"

SpaceX Crew Dragon Is the Most Anticipated Launch of the Yearyoutu.be

McAleenan said.In addition to the conditions at the launch site, mission managers have to consider what the weather is like at sea, in case an emergency comes up and the astronauts have to abort the flight. That part of the forecast is also iffy, McAleenan said. He said the backup days for launch, May 30 and 31, had a "better probability of launching, and lower risk numbers across the Atlantic."

The countdown clock officially begins running on Tuesday morning — but the two astronauts who are due to ride the Dragon, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, will have a relatively light day, consisting of technical briefings mixed with rest and relaxation.

On Wednesday, they'll get a wakeup call at 9 a.m. ET, have breakfast and then receive a weather briefing at about 12:20 p.m. ET. After the briefing, they'll put on their custom-fitted SpaceX spacesuits, walk out from the Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at about 1:15 p.m., climb into the Dragon capsule at 2 p.m., and close the hatch at 2:38 p.m.

Lueders said launch-pad workers have been "nose-swabbed and tested" to check for COVID-19, and they'll be outfitted in a way that's meant to protect Hurley and Behnken from infection. "They look like ninjas there — because, you know, with the SpaceX folks, you've got to have it be looking cool," she joked.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president for build and flight reliability, said the launch team will be closely monitoring the weather forecast for the launch site as well as the ocean recovery zones as the clock ticks down. A crucial decision point will come at T-minus-45 minutes, when the go-ahead is due to be given for arming the Dragon's launch escape system and fueling up the Falcon 9 rocket with highly refined kerosene and liquid oxygen.

If all goes as planned, the Falcon 9 will light up its engines at 4:33 p.m. ET (1:33 p.m. PT), kicking off what's expected to be a 19-hour flight to the space station. Along the way, the astronauts will get a couple of chances to steer the Dragon manually using touchscreen panels. But for most of the flight, including the station docking, the Dragon will be under autonomous control.

Assuming that the weather cooperates, the next big uncertainty has to do with how long SpaceX's first spacefliers will stay at the station.

The primary purpose of the mission is to demonstrate the Dragon's performance for future crewed flights. But right now there are only three other crew members at the space station, which typically has a crew of six. Hurley and Behnken may be called upon to put in a tour of duty that's longer than originally scheduled — and help out with tasks including a couple of spacewalks.

"That schedule is a little bit in flux," Koenigsmann acknowledged. "Obviously NASA will tell us when they're ready to go, anywhere between … six weeks and 16 weeks."

The flight back will bring the astronauts down to an Atlantic Ocean splashdown and recovery. In an interview with Aviation Week & Space Technology, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the return was the part of the mission that he was most worried about — due to the asymmetry of the Dragon's back shell.

"We've looked at this six ways to Sunday, so it's not that I think this will fail," Aviation Week's Irene Klotz quoted Musk as saying. "It's just that I worry a bit that it is asymmetric on the backshell, and you could have a strange sort of roll coupling as you come in if you turn too much. I think this is low risk, but that's what I would put as my biggest concern."

When Koenigsmann was asked about Musk's comments, he said he didn't have any special concerns in advance of the launch. "I'm at the point right now where I'm actually worried about the weather, and that's a good sign," Koenigsmann said.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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