While NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is well known for its rocket launches, a relatively new spaceport will be roaring back to life soon from the Mid Atlantic, providing people in the heavily populated I-95 corridor from New York City south into North Carolina with a view of the launches from their own backyard.
Orbital ATK, one of the companies that hold a contract to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), is preparing for new launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the east coast of Virginia. Orbital ATK’s Antares team is preparing now for the company’s eighth Cargo Resupply Mission (known as OA-8) to the International Space Station. The team plans to have Antares fully integrated and ready for the Cygnus payload by May with a launch happening sometime this summer.
“We are working a steady cadence at our home port in Wallops,” said Kurt Eberly, Antares Deputy Program Manager for Orbital ATK. “Our plan is to be ready in advance of when NASA needs us to fly.”
In May, the team will mate the first and second stages of their rocket, complete flight simulation testing, and then lift and transfer the fully-assembled vehicle onto the Transporter/Erector/Launcher (TEL) where it will be ready for the Cygnus mate. Cygnus is the name for the cargo craft that’ll carry supplies to the ISS on top of the Antares rocket. The Antares team will be ready to launch OA-8 as early as this summer and OA-9 as early as the end of this year.
Orbital ATK launched their Antares rocket last year from the Virginia spaceport. The October 17, 2016 launch returned Orbital ATK to the launchpad two years after its previous mission ended in an explosion seconds after liftoff. The launch took off at 7:45pm ET, giving people along the the east coast a view as the rocket propelled into space.
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, was established in 1945 by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics as a center for aeronautic research. Today, Wallops is NASA’s principal facility for management and implementation of suborbital research programs. A visitors center there is open to guests on Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm; it is closed on Sundays and Mondays. During most launches, the visitors center will have a viewing area set-up for an up-close view of launches there.