Space station cargo ship prepped for flight


Orbital ATK engineers are readying an upgraded Antares rocket for a sub-freezing launch from the Virginia coast early Saturday to spice up a Cygnus cargo ship into orbit loaded with 7,400 kilos of kit and provides certain for the International Space Station.

Liftoff from Pad 0A on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Island, Virginia, flight facility is focused for 7:37:25 a.m. EST (GMT-5), roughly the second Earth’s rotation carries the launch web site into the aircraft of the area station’s orbit — a requirement for rendezvous missions.

Forecasters predicted a 95 p.c likelihood of excellent climate, and engineers stated the anticipated launch-time temperature of round 25 levels Fahrenheit posed no issues for the Antares rocket.

“We are looking forward to a very exciting morning tomorrow,” stated Dan Hartman, deputy supervisor of the area station program on the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We have Cygnus completely packed full of cargo on this mission, 7,400 pounds of cargo.”

A NASA breakdown lists 2,734 kilos of crew provides, 1,631 kilos of science gear and provides, 1,875 kilos of area station , 281 kilos of spacewalk tools and 75 kilos of pc gear.

In addition, two small “cubesats” might be moved into the station for launch later from the Japanese Kibo module together with three others already on board the lab.

The Cygnus is carrying 14 different cubesats that might be launched after the cargo ship departs the station on Dec. four, together with one to check high-speed laser communications know-how and one other to display an built-in photo voltaic array-antenna system.


The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) undertaking makes use of CubeSats to check new kinds of know-how in Earth’s orbit.

NASA/Ames Research Center

Research supplies and tools carried up within the Cygnus will badist help some 300 investigations that “span all the scientific disciplines that ISS supports, including human research, physical sciences, biology and biotechnology, technology demonstration, Earth and space science and eduction,” stated Camille Alleyne, a science planner on the Johnson Space Center.

Assuming an on-time liftoff, the Cygnus ought to attain the station early Monday, pulling as much as inside about 30 ft of the lab advanced after which standing by whereas Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, working the station’s robotic arm, locks on to a grapple fixture.

From there, flight controllers in Houston will take over arm operations, pulling the Cygnus in for berthing on the Earth-facing port of the station’s central Unity module. The astronauts will start unloading the spacecraft the subsequent day.

One piece of kit going up on the Cygnus is a “cold box” full of recent meals for the crew.

“On every mission, we have crew care packages we send up from family members,” Hartman stated. “It’s the first time we’ve flown … a long-duration cold box … and we have packed that full of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, so the crew’s going to get some treats when they open up the hatch.”

If all goes properly, the Cygnus might be indifferent from Unity on Dec. three. Before it’s launched, the station arm will place it inside a number of ft of a docking port atop the Harmony module, one in all two that might be utilized by business crew ferry ships being constructed by Boeing and SpaceX.

The Cygnus will function a stand-in of types, permitting engineers to evaluate whether or not visiting spacecraft would possibly intervene with station’s potential to obtain Global Positioning System navigation indicators. The Cygnus might be held in place close to Harmony’s higher port for about 12 hours earlier than being launched from the arm on Dec. four.

The cubesats might be launched from the Cygnus after separation. The cargo ship, loaded with a number of tons of area station trash and no-longer-needed tools, then will plunge again into the environment, burning up over the Pacific Ocean.

Saturday’s launching will mark NASA’s fifth area station provide run up to now this 12 months. It is Orbital’s eighth Cygnus flight since 2014 and the corporate’s fifth since an earlier model of the Antares booster exploded seconds after launch in October 2014.

That failure was blamed on the rocket’s authentic first-stage engines, left over from the Russian moon program within the 1970s. In the wake of the mishap, Orbital switched to state-of-the-art Russian-built RD-181 powerplants, shopping for three United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets as a stop-gap measure earlier than efficiently launching the primary re-engined Antares 230 in October 2016.

Saturday’s flight would be the second for the upgraded Antares with 4 extra missions on faucet by means of April 2019 underneath Orbital’s present resupply contract. At least six further flights are anticipated underneath a second NASA contract.

Space station managers plan to observe up the Cygnus flight with launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Dec. four from pad 40 on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

That pad was closely broken when a Falcon 9 exploded 5 minutes earlier than a deliberate pre-flight engine check in September 2016, however the advanced has been repaired and the NASA resupply launch will mark the pad’s return to lively standing.

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