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Orbital ATK Aborts Rocket Launch to Space Station Due to Wayward Plane

An Orbital ATK Antares rocket stands atop Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia throughout an tried launch on Nov. 11, 2017. The launch was aborted on the final minute because of a wayward aircraft within the mission’s restricted airspace.

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A cargo resupply mission scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this morning (Nov. 11) was aborted on the final minute because of plane flying within the restricted airspace over the launch web site at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility right here in Wallops Island, Virginia.


Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket was one minute away from liftoff when flight controllers abruptly aborted the launch at 7:36 a.m. EST (1236 GMT), when the plane entered the restricted space.  With the five-minute launch window closed for the day, Orbital ATK rescheduled the Antares launch for no sooner than 7:14 a.m. EST (1214 GMT) on Sunday (Nov. 12). You can watch the launch stay on Space.com starting and 6:45 a.m. EST (1145 GMT) .


“The launch of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft has scrubbed for Saturday after an aircraft was detected in the vicinity of the launch pad,” NASA officers mentioned in an announcement.


In a post-abort briefing on the Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center this morning, Orbital ATK officers mentioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided small private plane entered the restricted airspace whereas flying about 6 miles (10 kilometers) offshore at an altitude of roughly 500 toes (150 meters).


It isn’t but clear how the plane managed to flee detection till the final minute earlier than launch, Orbital ATK officers mentioned. The FAA points notices to aviators about airspace restrictions properly prematurely earlier than rocket launches. At this time, Orbital ATK doesn’t know who was piloting the plane in query, however the FAA is investigating the incident.


Around three,500 spectators had gathered on the customer heart right here at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to view the launch in freezing-cold temperatures, some arriving greater than 4 hours prematurely to safe one of the best viewing spots.


When flight controllers introduced that at present’s launch wouldn’t proceed, the group of shivering and baffled onlookers packed up their chairs and blankets and left. Young youngsters cried as their mother and father needed to clarify why they’d not get to see a launch at present. While some attendees mentioned they deliberate to return tomorrow for one more launch try, others who had traveled from out of state mentioned they may not afford the posh of sticking round an additional day.


“A plane? Seriously? I drove six hours just to watch a plane fly over the launchpad,” mentioned Michael Vargas, my husband, who had pushed to Wallops from Brooklyn, New York in a single day to see what he hoped could be his first rocket launch. “I have to head back today to grade school papers, so I can’t stick around to see it tomorrow. What a bummer.”


Another couple from Washington, D.C., Paul and Amy, had pushed down right here with their center school-aged youngsters and instructed Space.com that they deliberate to stay round for tomorrow’s launch try. They mentioned that this might be their first launch since NASA’s house shuttle days. For their youngsters, this can be their first expertise seeing a rocket launch.



Antares will launch a Cygnus cargo craft to the International Space Station to ship greater than 7,700 lbs. (three,500 kilograms) of meals, provides and science experiments to the Expedition 53 crew. If the mission had launched in response to plan at present, Cygnus could be arriving on the house station early Monday morning (Nov. 13). But with at present’s launch being scrubbed, it’s going to arrive no sooner than Tuesday (Nov. 14).


Weather prospects for tomorrow’s launch seems promising, with circumstances 90 p.c favorable for launch. It may even be about ten levels Fahrenheit hotter than it was this morning, so spectators returning to the launch web site tomorrow can rely on a much less frigid and extra nice viewing expertise.


Editor’s word: This story was up to date at 9:42 a.m. EST to included a revised crowd measurement for the variety of spectactors right here at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. It was up to date once more at 10:50 a.m. EST with new details about the plane, which Orbital ATK officers mentioned in a post-abort press convention.


Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@house.com or observe her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.




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