A substantial freeze is coming to the Mid Atlantic; even so, the freezing forecast won’t put a chill into Orbital ATK’s plans to launch their Antares rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in the Mid Atlantic.
The local forecast on Weatherboy.com is calling for a morning low temperature of 27 degrees at the Virginia coast space port. With low temperatures forecast for Wallops and surrounding communities and counties in the Mid Atlantic, the National Weather Service has issued Freeze Watches for many. With a widespread freeze expected, the growing season for the year should end in New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. Urban areas, such as New York City, are also forecast to drop below the freezing mark by Saturday morning.
Between 7:37am and 7:42am Saturday Morning, Orbital ATK is planning to launch their Antares rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Lifting off from Pad 0A, the Antares will be lifting up a Cygnus cargo craft to space. The spacecraft will deliver vital supplies and scientific equipment to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Orbital ATK’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. The mission is known as “OA8”.
Unlike similar rocket launches over the relatively unpopulated area of the Florida Space Coast, the facility near Chincoteague Island, Virginia provides the opportunity for millions in the Mid Atlantic region to view the launch. As long as Mother Nature keeps clouds and fog away, people in the New York City area south to the Outer Banks of North Carolina should be able to watch the rocket lift off into the sky over the Atlantic coast.
While the frosty forecast may make some sky observers cringe at the thought of waiting outside for launch, the low temperatures are of no concern to mission scientists. Trina Patterson, Sr. Manager, Communications for Orbital ATK tells us, “Our ambient temperature constraint is 20F. Our capability is driven by the fact that we blow a lot of highly conditioned air into 3 areas of the vehicle that contain the Cygnus spacecraft, avionics, batteries, ordnance, and the second stage solid rocket motor, which are the temperature sensitive items on the rocket.”
With temperatures forecast to be above that 20F constraint, temperatures are not a concern for the launch.
“The LOX (liquid oxygen) we load into the vehicle is at roughly -295F, so a cold ambient air temperature is of no concern for most of Stage 1; in fact it just makes it easier to keep the LOX cold on its trip from the storage tank to the rocket”, added Patterson.
It appears the rest of the weather forecast will cooperate too for launch. With high pressure moving into the Mid Atlantic, the skies should be clear and winds should be light at the surface and above the launch pad for Saturday morning’s expected launch.