Keep an eye to the sky! Orbital ATK will be launching their Antares 230 launch vehicle from Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia within NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Known as the “OA-5” mission, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus advanced maneuvering spacecraft will carry approximately 5,290 pounds of supplies and science experiments for the International Space Station (ISS).
The Antares 230 vehicle features all new RD-181 engines which provide increased performance and flexibility to the Orbital ATK cargo delivery service. After being launched into low-Earth orbit, the Cygnus spacecraft will use its maneuvering capability to transport the cargo from a low parking orbit to the ISS where it will be grappled by the station’s crew using the station’s robotic arm and berthed to the station. After the cargo is removed and any disposal items are added, Cygnus will depart from the ISS, and begin secondary payload missions.
For the OA-5 mission, Cygnus will carry the Saffire II payload experiment to study combustion behavior in microgravity. Data from this experiment will be downloaded via telemetry. In addition, a NanoRack deployer will release Spire Cubesats used for weather forecasting. These secondary payload operations will be conducted after Cygnus departs the space station.
Weather-permitting, the scheduled evening launch should be visible across a large part of the US east coast, especially in areas away from clouds and light pollution sources. With previous launches described from places like southeastern Pennsylvania as an “upside-down bunsen burner lifting up towards the ocean”, it is quite the site to see this rocket lift up from the northeastern Virginia spaceport. Those in the immediate area of the launch will be able to hear the roar of the oceans. Further away, viewers won’t be able to hear the engines roar but will see the rocket streak up in the eastern sky, heading south east over the Atlantic Ocean. On it’s way up, you’ll see the first stage cut-off followed a moment later by stage two ignition.
A tracking station on Bermuda is critical to a successful launch and Thursday’s Hurricane Nicole impacts there may further delay this scheduled launch. It was previously delayed due to Hurricane Matthew and experienced other delays as Orbital ATK readied for the launch. If there is no damage to the Bermuda tracking station and all other systems and weather cooperate, the Antares rocket should lift-off from the spaceport this Monday, October 17, at 7:40pm.
Depending which colored area you are in, which correlates to distance from the lift-off site, you’ll see the rocket in the sky anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and a half later after the launch. You’ll need to look in the direction of that white line which illustrates the flight path. If you aren’t in these areas or have problems with light pollution or clouds, you can also watch the launch on NASA TV online.