Unsettled weather could impact the ability for millions to view a Mid Atlantic rocket launch from their home next weekend. Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft are scheduled to launch from NASA Wallops on Wallops Island, Virginia on Sunday morning, May 20. The rocket has a 5-minute launch window that opens at 5:04am ET. To view the rocket lifting off, you need to be in an area free of most light pollution and clouds. If a wet weather pattern persists into next weekend, clouds at the very least interfere with the launch viewing. At worst, the weather could force a scrub to a better weather day. With twilight starting at 5:16am and sunrise at 5:46am, the sun-free skies should become illuminated by the rocket engines and visible for a far distance if Mother Nature cooperates.
Cygnus will deliver vital equipment, supplies and scientific experiments to astronauts aboard the ISS.
Designed to provide responsive and low-cost access to space, Antares is a two-stage vehicle that provides low-Earth orbit (LEO) launch capability for payloads weighing up to 8,000 kg. Internally funded by Orbital ATK, Antares completed a risk reduction mission and a demonstration of commercial re-supply services for the ISS under a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement in 2013. Orbital ATK commenced delivery of cargo to the ISS under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract in 2014.
The last launch of the Antares rocket at NASA Wallops occurred last year on November 12. That mission successfully brought 7,400 pounds of supplies and science to the ISS.
Cargo is delivered to the station using Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft. The Cygnus spacecraft consists of two modules: the Service Module (SM) which incorporates the avionics, propulsion and power systems from Orbital ATK’s LEOStar and GEOStar spacecraft buses; and the Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) which carries the crew supplies, spares and scientific experiments. The SM is integrated and tested at Orbital ATK’s Dulles, Virginia satellite manufacturing facility. The PCM is supplied by Thales Alenia Space and is produced in Turin Italy.
The May mission is known as OA-9.