Update Sunday, Oct. 16: Today’s planned launch of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket is postponed 24 hours because of a ground support equipment cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch check out. “We have spares on hand and rework procedures are in process. The Antares and Cygnus teams are not currently working any technical issues with the rocket or the spacecraft,” Orbital ATK stated.
Nearly two years after a devastating explosion at the site, Dulles-based Orbital ATK’s mission to resupply the International Space Station returns to Virginia’s Wallops Island Spaceport this weekend.
Loudoun residents may be able to see the launch of the Cygnus spacecraft, currently scheduled for liftoff at 8:05 p.m. Sunday. Plans to launch Thursday night were postponed because a Bermuda tracking station was in the path of Hurricane Nicole. Check here for the latest mission updates.
The flight is the sixth under Orbital’s $1.9 billion, eight-mission contract with NASA to transport supplies to the ISS with an unmanned spacecraft. The third mission failed in 2014 with an explosion just after liftoff at Wallops Island. While repairs were made to Virginia’s spaceport, Orbital completed two missions from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
This mission, OA-5, includes the first use of Orbital’s next generation Antares 230 rockets powered by RD-181 engines manufactured by Russia’s NPO Energomash. Atlas V rockets were used in the two launches since the failure of the Antares 100 in 2014.
The craft will deliver 5,290 pounds of supplies and science experiments to the ISS and then remove disposable material from the station. The craft and the trash will burn up upon return to Earth’s atmosphere.
Following an Orbital tradition, the Cygnus spacecraft, the S.S. Alan Poindexter, is named in honor of an astronaut. The late Alan G. Poindexter was a veteran space shuttle commander who led missions aboard Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery.
Production of the Cygnus spacecraft was performed at Orbital’s Dulles headquarters. The mission will be guided by control centers in Dulles and Houston, TX.
NASA TV is scheduled to provide two prelaunch broadcasts Saturday providing more information about the mission. At 4 p.m., scientists and researchers will discuss some of the investigations to be delivered to the station. At 6 p.m., mission managers will provide an overview and status of launch operations. The programs can be viewed on the agency’s website. If the schedule holds, the launch also can be viewed online Sunday with programming scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.