Weather fair for SpaceX launch

Cape Canaveral -

The weather forecast was largely favorable Friday as SpaceX prepared to launch its Dragon capsule on a bid to become the first private spacecraft to reach the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 test rocket is being prepared for launch from Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida May 18, 2012. An Obama administration plan to cut the cost of spaceflight services faces a key test on Saturday when a privately owned rocket lifts off for a practice run to the International Space Station. If successful, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, would become the first private company to reach the $100 billion outpost, which flies about 240 miles (390 km) above Earth. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule are scheduled for launch on Saturday. REUTERS/ Michael Brown. Credit: REUTERS

There is a 30 percent chance of weather conditions preventing launch, which Joel Tumbiolo of the 45th Weather Squadron, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, described as a “fairly low number.”

“We are looking at favorable conditions,” he told reporters on the eve of the launch, scheduled for 4:55 am (0855 GMT) on Saturday.

Tumbiolo said the wind was expected to be mild, five to 10 knots, with a “very low” chance that cumulus clouds in the area could prevent the launch.

He added that the overnight and early morning hours tend to be the calmest in south Florida at this time of year, when tropical thunderstorms are frequent particularly in the afternoon and evening.

If Saturday's launch is delayed for some reason, SpaceX, a California-based company owned by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, has another opportunity to attempt it on May 22.

The test flight aims to show that the company's Falcon 9 rocket can send the Dragon on a course to the International Space Station, where it aims to do a fly-by of the orbiting lab followed by a berthing maneuver.

The Dragon capsule is toting 521 kilograms (1,148 pounds) of cargo for the space lab and will also aim to return a 660-kilogram (1,455 pound) load to Earth. - Sapa-AFP