Orbital ATK this morning celebrated a flawless launch of its Cygnus cargo mission carried by an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
Liftoff came in the final seconds of Sunday morning’s five-minute launch window at 7:21 a.m.. The launch had been scheduled for Saturday morning, but a small plane flying into restricted airspace near the Virginia space center forced the crews to abort.
This morning, it took about nine minutes for the two-stage Antares rocket to deliver the cargo ship to its preliminary orbit. The craft, now under control of Orbital ATK flight engineers at the company’s Dulles headquarters, is expected to dock at the International Space Station on Tuesday.
The mission of the S.S. Gene Cernan 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 detached. But before plummeting through the atmosphere, it will deploy the satellites about 50 km above the station.