Orbital ATK Launch May Be Visible in Loudoun Saturday Morning

Update:  The launch of the OA-8 Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station was aborted at the last minute after an aircraft flew in the restricted airspace over the launch site at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Orbital ATK has rescheduled the Antares launch for no earlier than 7:14 a.m. Sunday.

Orbital ATK is scheduled to launch its next mission to the International Space Station tomorrow, with the five-minute launch window opening at 7:37 a.m.

The S.S. Gene Cernan, a Cygnus spacecraft, will lift off aboard an Antares launch vehicle for the sixth time from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The spacecraft will deliver supplies and scientific equipment to the station as part of the Dulles-based company’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA.

The launch may be widely visible along the East Coast. However, because this is an early morning launch, it is likely that the sun will interfere with viewing from most locations. The launch also may be watched on NASA TV.

This Cygnus is different from past flights in which the craft drops off supplies, is filled with trash, and then burns up upon reentering the atmosphere. This time, the craft will carry 7,400 pounds of food, clothing and experiments, but it also will have 14 small satellites on board. After the supplies are unloaded, the craft will be used as a workspace for the crew—temporarily expanding the station by 24 cubic meters. Later, it will be filled with trash and detach. But before plummeting through the atmosphere, it will deploy the satellites about 50 km above the station.

Following the Orbital ATK tradition of naming each craft, the OA-8 Cygnus Cargo Delivery Spacecraft honors former astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan. He was the last human to set foot on the moon and set records for both lunar surface extravehicular activities and longest time in lunar orbit.

OA-8 Cygnus Cargo Delivery Spacecraft Mission profile.

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