Cargo Resupply Mission Off to ‘a Great Start’

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Liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Orbital ATK Cygnus module on the seventh commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.

Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph

Resident crew members aboard the International Space Station are expecting a delivery early Saturday morning following today’s successful liftoff of the Orbital ATK CRS-7 cargo resupply mission aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

“It’s a great feeling to be back at Kennedy Space Center watching commercial cargo launch to the International Space Station,” said Joel Montalbano, deputy manager of the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This is a great start and I want to thank our Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance colleagues for where we are today.”

The on-time launch at 11:11 a.m. EDT marked the conclusion of a smooth countdown at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“We had a pretty smooth count, with a couple of minor issues quickly resolved,” said Vern Thorp, United Launch Alliance’s program manager for commercial missions. The weather cooperated and the vehicle performance was exactly as expected.

“All the predicted timing of events was right on the money, and the orbit we inserted the spacecraft into was very accurate,” Thorp said.

The spacecraft is in good health as it starts its three-day chase of the station.

“The status of the spacecraft is great,” said Frank Culbertson, president of the Orbital ATK Space Systems Group. “The solar arrays are fully deployed and rotated and generating power; the team is in control and we’re beginning our approach to the space station.”

The Orbital ATK CRS-7 mission is the Cygnus module’s seventh flight to the orbiting outpost under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, and the third such flight aboard an Atlas V. The delivery of more than 7,600 pounds of cargo will support several new and existing science investigations and will also include crew supplies and station equipment.

Expedition 51 astronauts Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and Peggy Whitson of NASA will use the station’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus at about 6:05 a.m. Saturday.

Space Station Program managers were able to pipe today’s launch video to the station so the crew could watch live, Montalbano said.

“The crew passed their congratulations to the teams down here,” he added.

For further updates on the Orbital ATK CRS-7 mission, visit https://www.nasa.gov/orbital.

 

Both Arrays Deployed as Mission Begins

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Both of the solar arrays on the Orbital ATK CRS-7 Cygnus module have successfully deployed and are beginning to draw power, reports Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager of Orbital ATK’s Advanced Programs Division, Space Systems Group.

For the next couple of hours, DeMauro said, the spacecraft will undergo a detailed checkout before starting the first of several orbit-raising burns it will perform in the coming days as it pursues a Saturday-morning rendezvous with the International Space Station.

A post-launch news conference is planned for 2:30 p.m. EDT on NASA Television.

Longtime NASA Launch Commentator George Diller to Step Away from the Console

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Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, left, chats with NASA Launch Commentator George Diller during coverage of the Orbital ATK CRS-7 launch.

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, left, chats with NASA Launch Commentator George Diller during coverage of the Orbital ATK CRS-7 launch. Image credit: NASA TV

As launch and mission managers wait for the Orbital ATK Cygnus module’s two solar arrays to deploy, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana sat down with longtime NASA Launch Commentator George Diller, pointing out today’s launch marks Diller’s final time at the console.

George Diller, NASA Public Affairs information specialist, moderates an Orbital ATK CRS-7 briefing on April 17, 2017 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.Diller has been at the space center 37 years — four as a contractor and 33 as a NASA Public Affairs information specialist and launch commentator.

George Diller, NASA Public Affairs information specialist, moderates an Orbital ATK CRS-7 briefing on April 17, 2017 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

“You’ve done an outstanding job, and we’re really going to miss your golden voice on console,” Cabana said.

Diller expects to keep an eye on future missions even as he looks forward to a retirement in the mountains.

“You can take the boy out of the launch, but you can’t take the launch out of the boy,” Diller said. “It’s certainly fun.”

Watch the whole interview:

Live 360 Statement

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For those who experienced technical difficulties with the Live 360 degree coverage during launch, NASA offers the following statement:

Live 360º is an emerging technology. While we had some difficulties with today’s broadcast, we’ve had incredible interest from people all over the world looking to experience a live 360º launch perspective. This is the first time that this has ever been attempted and while the 360º would have been a unique look at launch, we still have incredible video of today’s successful liftoff of the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station from multiple other cameras that provide a variety of views. We will review today’s 360º setup and endeavor to bring this new perspective of a rocket launch to everyone in the future.

‘A Beautiful Launch’

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The Atlas V rocket performed very well during today’s liftoff and climb to orbit, reports Vern Thorp, United Launch Alliance’s program manager for commercial missions.

“It was a beautiful launch,” Thorp said, pointing out that the Atlas booster performed at or slightly above expectations and that actual event times were very close to preflight predictions.

“It looks like we nailed the orbit once again,” he added. “At this time, it looks like a very good orbit insertion.”

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