Results of Orb-2 Launch Readiness Review

At a Launch Readiness Review Saturday, managers for Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Virginia, and NASA gave a “go” to proceed toward the Sunday, July 13, launch of the Orb-2 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Orbital is targeting a 12:52 p.m. EDT launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at noon.

There is a 90-percent chance of favorable weather at the time of launch.

A pre-launch news briefing was held at 4:30 p.m.on Saturday, July 12, at the Wallops visitors center, to discuss the status of the mission.

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Orb-2 Latest Forecast: Still 90% ‘Go’

The Weather Office at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia reports that the forecast remains 90-percent favorable for the Orb-2 Antares rocket launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at Wallops. Launch is scheduled for July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.

The main weather concern for the launch appears to be a very slight chance of convective clouds (cumulus) near the vehicle path.

High pressure begins to build off the Northeast coast this evening, while an upper-level trough starts to dig over the Great Lakes by Sunday morning. High pressure off the eastern seaboard will remain in control of the Wallops region on Sunday afternoon with dry and slightly breezy conditions, as an upper-level disturbance and cold front moves into the western portion of the Mid-Atlantic. The upper-level disturbance and cold front will move toward the Wallops region on Monday, with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms by early afternoon Monday, and a better chance of showers and storms by Monday evening.

Should the launch slip to Monday, July 14, the current forecast reports 70-percent favorable weather. Weather concerns for a Monday launch are, at present, convective clouds, disturbed weather and wind.

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Looking Back at Orb-1, Forward to Orb-2

A few days after launch, the Orb-2 mission’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft will arrive at the International Space Station with supplies for the crew, hardware and scientific experiments. This video shows the arrival of Orb-1’s Cygnus at the space station in January, as well as a portion of its unloading by the Expedition 37/38 astronaut crew.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3b-5qSXdVA[/embedyt]

Orb-2’s Cygnus is scheduled to launch aboard an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sunday, July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT. Its arrival at the station is scheduled for July 16.

After about a month, the crew will detach the vehicle (at that point filled with disposal cargo), use the station’s robotic arm to maneuver it away from the station and release it. At the end of its mission, Cygnus will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific.

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Space-Based View of Wallops

This view of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility along Virginia's Eastern Shore comes from the Landsat 8 satellite. Credit: NASA's Earth Observatory; image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey.
This view of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility along Virginia’s Eastern Shore comes from the Landsat 8 satellite. Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory; image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey.

NASA’s Earth Observatory provided the above satellite view, as well as a write-up of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia:

The first research rocket launched from Wallops Island was Tiamat on July 4, 1945.
The first research rocket launched from Wallops Island was Tiamat on July 4, 1945.

More than 70 year ago, wild ponies roamed the marshes and beaches of Wallops Island, a barrier island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Today, the island is the site of a thriving spaceport that launches several commercial and government rockets each year.

Wallops has a long history with rockets. On July 4, 1945, NASA’s predecessor (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or “NACA”) launched the first rocket from Wallops, making the island one of the oldest launch sites in the world. Since then, more than 14,000 rockets have lifted off. While most involved modestly-sized meteorological and sounding rockets, the completion of Launch Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in 2011 has made it possible to launch larger and more powerful rockets.

Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares is one such rocket. Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft with cargo for the International Space Station is scheduled to launch aboard an Antares rocket on Sunday, July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.

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As Orb-2 Nears Launch, Orb-3 Prep Already Under Way

Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft with cargo for the International Space Station is scheduled to launch aboard an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sunday, July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft aboard, is seen during sunrise, Saturday, July 12, 2014. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft aboard, is seen during sunrise, Saturday, July 12, 2014. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

This launch, the Orb-2 mission, is the second of eight under Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. While Orb-2’s liftoff nears, Orb-3 preparations are already well under way. Tentatively scheduled for an October 2014 launch, Orb-3 will be another Cygnus flight aboard an Antares rocket.

The first and second stages of Orb-3’s Antares are inside Wallops’ Horizontal Integration Facility (“HIF” for short).

The Horizontal Integration Facility at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Credit: NASA
The Horizontal Integration Facility, or HIF, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA

The facility is 250 feet long, 150 wide and 60 feet high. Its bay provides dual horizontal processing with 70-and 50-ton bridge cranes. The HIF was built in about 16 months, with ribbon-cutting in March 2011. Orbital Sciences Corp. is the first customer to use the facility, which features adjacent laboratory and warehouse space.

This view inside the HIF shows Orb-2's Antares rocket (right) prior to roll out to the launch pad on July 10, 2014. The first (white) and second (black) stages of Orb-3's Antares are at the left side of the image. Credit: NASA Wallops
This view inside the HIF shows Orb-2’s Antares rocket (right) prior to roll out to the launch pad on July 10, 2014. The first (white) and second (black) stages of Orb-3’s Antares are at the left side of the image. Credit: NASA Wallops

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Orbital-2 Launch Viewing Maps

Depending on local conditions and other factors, Sunday’s launch of the Orbital-2 mission from Virginia may be partially visible from South Carolina to Massachusetts.

Map of U.S. East Coast showing first-sight viewing times of the Orbital-2 launch. Credit: Orbital
Map of U.S. East Coast showing first-sight viewing times of the Orbital-2 launch. Credit: Orbital

Launch is scheduled for July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, along Virginia’s eastern shore. An Antares rocket will loft a Cygnus spacecraft loaded with about 3,300 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station, including science experiments to expand the research capability of the Expedition 40 crew, crew provisions, spare parts and experiment hardware.

Simulated view of Orbital-2's launch path as seen from Battery Park in New York City. Credit: Orbital
Simulated view of Orbital-2’s launch path as seen from Battery Park in New York City. Credit: Orbital
Simulated view of Orbital-2's launch path as seen from Washington, D.C. Credit: Orbital
Simulated view of Orbital-2’s launch path as seen from Washington, D.C. Credit: Orbital
Simulated view of Orbital-2's launch path as seen from Richmond, Virginia. Credit: Orbital
Simulated view of Orbital-2’s launch path as seen from Richmond, Virginia. Credit: Orbital

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Orb-2 Science Briefing Highlights

The small Planet Labs satellites included in Cygnus' cargo are similar to those pictured here, part of a constellation launched into orbit earlier this year from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
The small Planet Labs satellites included in Cygnus’ cargo are similar to those pictured here, part of a constellation launched into orbit earlier this year from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Artist concept of TechEdSAT-4. Credit: NASA
Artist concept of TechEdSAT-4. Credit: NASA
Photo of Smart SPHERES, a prototype free-flying space robot headed to the International Space Station aboard Orb-2's Cygnus. Credit: NASA
Photo of Smart SPHERES, a prototype free-flying space robot headed to the International Space Station aboard Orb-2’s Cygnus. Credit: NASA

Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft with cargo for the International Space Station is scheduled to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sunday, July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.

About half of the Cygnus’ 3,300-pound payload is food for the station’s crew, with a combination of science experiments, spare parts and experiment hardware making up the other half. A pre-launch briefing about the mission (known as Orb-2) was held at 4 p.m. on July 11 to discuss these science and technology components.

Among the research investigations are a flock of small satellites (known as CubeSats) that are designed to take images of Earth, developed by Planet Labs of San Francisco; and a satellite-related investigation called TechEdSat-4 built by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. TechEdSat-4 aims to develop technology that will eventually enable small samples to be returned to Earth from the space station. In addition, a host of student experiments are being flown in association with the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, an initiative of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and NanoRacks.

Another small satellite headed to the space station is Smart SPHERES, a prototype free-flying space robot. NASA has been testing the Smart SPHERES on the space station since 2011. During this summer, astronauts will upgrade these existing space robots to use Google’s “Project Tango” smartphone, which features a custom 3-D sensor and multiple cameras. NASA will then use the Smart SPHERES to test free-flying 3-D mapping and navigation inside the space station. NASA is developing the Smart SPHERES to perform work on the space station that requires mobile sensing, such as environmental surveys to monitor levels of radiation, lighting and air quality. They also will be used to monitor inventory and conduct experiments.

Orbital 2 Cargo By-The-Numbers

Total weight of cargo: 3293 pounds / 1493.8 kilograms

  • Crew supplies: 1684 pounds / 764.2 kilograms
    • Crew care packages
    • Crew provisions
    • Food
  • Hardware: 783 pounds / 355.1 kilograms
    • Crew Health Care System hardware
    • Environment Control and Life Support equipment
    • Electrical Power System hardware
    • Extravehicular Robotics equipment
    • Flight Crew Equipment
    • PL Facility
    • Structural & Mechanical equipment
    • Internal Thermal Control System hardware
  • Science and research: 721 pounds / 327 kilograms
    • CubeSats and deployers
    • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Dynamic Surf Hardware
    • Human Research Program resupply
  • Computer supplies: 18 pounds / 8.1 kilograms
    • Command and Data Handling
    • Photo and TV equipment
  • Spacewalk tools: 87 pounds / 39.4 kilograms

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Pre-Launch Science Briefing

A media briefing previewing the science and technology cargo headed to the International Space Station aboard the Cygnus spacecraft (scheduled for launch Sunday at 12:52 p.m. EDT) will occur at 4 p.m. EDT today.

The briefing will be aired on NASA Television, and members of the public may ask questions on social media by using the #AskNASA hashtag.

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Forecast Update: Weather 90% Favorable for Launch

The Weather Office at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia reports that the forecast is 90-percent favorable for the Orb-2 Antares rocket launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at Wallops. Launch is scheduled for July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.

The main weather concern for the launch appears to be very slight chance of storm clouds.

High pressure will build into the region later this afternoon as a cold front to the south washes out. Light winds, clearer skies and remnant moisture will allow for patchy fog to develop overnight into the early morning hours tomorrow. Fog will burn off by mid-morning Saturday, giving way to partly cloudy skies and dry conditions through Sunday.

Should the launch slip to Monday, July 14, the current forecast reports 70-percent favorable weather.

› NASA’s Orbital website
› Launch viewing maps from Orbital Sciences Corp.
› Latest Student Science Heads For Space
› Orbital Mission Delivers Delights to Station
› NASA Launches Smartphone Upgrade and CubeSat

About the Orb-2 Mission’s Launch Site

The launch of a Cygnus spacecraft aboard an Antares rocket is scheduled for Sunday, July 13, 12:52 p.m. EDT. Liftoff will be from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Antares at its launch pad on July 10, 2014. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Antares at its launch pad on July 10, 2014. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Antares rocket stands 131.5 feet tall, about the height of a 13-story building. The four poles surrounding the pad help protect the rocket from lightning. The water tower (formally the Water Deluge System) holds some 200,000 gallons of freshwater for cooling and noise suppression purposes. The white tank visible in the foreground is part of the Liquid Fueling Facility. Antares’ first stage is fueled with a combination of liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene.

This aerial photograph shows a view of the Wallops Flight Facility's launch range. Credit: NASA
This aerial photograph shows a view of the Wallops Flight Facility’s launch range. Credit: NASA

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, or MARS for short, is a commercial launch site operated in partnership with NASA. The Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft are provided by Orbital Sciences Corp. This Cygnus is loaded with about 3,300 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station. About half the cargo is food, with the remainder being a combination of spare parts, hardware, science experiments, and other items.

› NASA’s Orbital website
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› NASA Launches Smartphone Upgrade and CubeSat