SpaceX, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private rocket company, was on Wednesday forced to postpone a planned launch of two National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronauts into orbit from Florida due to bad weather, AFP reported. The spaceflight carrying astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley would have been the first orbital mission from the United States in nine years.

The countdown was halted 16 minutes before the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center. “Unfortunately, we are not going to launch today,” launch director Mike Taylor said. “We understand that everybody’s a little bummed out,. It’s just part of the deal. Everybody was ready today but it’s just too bad...the ship looked great.”

For the launch to proceed, weather conditions also need to be perfect at dozens of “abort” locations stretching thousands of miles up the eastern seaboard of the US and across the Atlantic Ocean to the west coast of Ireland. Heavy rain has battered Florida for the last several days. Mission managers were monitoring a number of ominous weather conditions, including the threat of lightning, even as crews began loading the rocket with fuel, when lift off was aborted.

A live video feed showed Behnken and Hurley seated side by side in their white uniforms and waiting calmly as the crew finished unloading propellant from the rocket.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen had flown in to watch the historic launch.

The next launch window is now scheduled for Saturday afternoon. “We gave it a good try, but we just couldn’t get there,” a SpaceX spokesperson, John Insprucker, said, according to The Guardian. “We’ll come back another day.”

The last time NASA launched astronauts into space aboard a brand new vehicle was four decades ago at the outset of the shuttle programme. The space agency paid more than $3 billion for SpaceX to design, build, test and operate its reusable capsule for six future space round trips.