Antares Countdown Begins

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft teams have reported to their stations, and the formal countdown has begun. Antares is on schedule for launch tonight, Oct. 17, at 7:40 p.m. EDT, and Orbital ATK reports conditions are nominal. The Wallops Weather Office forecast (issued at L-minus 24 hours) is 95 percent go: “As our weather continues to be influenced by high pressure, we will see a great weather setup once again for the launch attempt on Monday, with only a very slight chance of thick clouds expected.”

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A during sunrise, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft on board, is seen on launch Pad-0A during sunrise, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver more than 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Antares’ Return to Flight Targeted for September

File photo of Antares rocket from preparations for a launch in April 2013. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
File photo of Antares rocket from preparations for a launch in April 2013. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Orbital ATK completed a stage test at the end of May and final data review has confirmed the test was successful, clearing the way for the Antares return to flight. Simultaneously, the company has been conducting final integration and check out of the flight vehicle that will launch the OA-5 mission to ensure that all technical, quality and safety standards are met or exceeded.

Due to a variety of interrelated factors, including the company’s continuing processing, inspection and testing of the flight vehicle at Wallops Island, and NASA’s scheduling of crew activities on the International Space Station in preparation for upcoming cargo and crew launches, Orbital ATK is currently working with NASA to target a window in the second half of September for the launch of the OA-5 mission. A more specific launch date will be identified in the coming weeks.

To date, Orbital ATK has carried out five cargo logistics mission for NASA under the COTS and CRS programs.

Orbital ATK Offers Look at Enhanced Cygnus

UltraFlexCygnus

Orbital ATK is out with a short feature about the Enhanced Cygnus spacecraft that will carry experiments, equipment and supplies to the International Space Station crew in December. The new spacecraft carries 25 percent more cargo than its predecessor and features a number of changes such as the more efficient solar arrays seen unfurled in the photo above from Orbital ATK. Read more from Orbital ATK here. 

The Enhanced Cygnus is to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with about 5,900 pounds of materials. The spacecraft will not carry any crew. Station astronauts will use the robotic arm on the orbiting laboratory to grasp the Enhanced Cygnus as it approaches and connect it to a port for unloading.

NASA Wallops Completes Initial Assessment After Orbital Launch Mishap; Blog Coverage Concludes

The Wallops Incident Response Team completed today an initial assessment of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 28, from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket Oct. 28.
An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket Oct. 28. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

“I want to praise the launch team, range safety, all of our emergency responders and those who provided mutual aid and support on a highly-professional response that ensured the safety of our most important resource — our people,” said Bill Wrobel, Wallops director. “In the coming days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue to assess the damage on the island and begin the process of moving forward to restore our space launch capabilities. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will rebound stronger than ever.”

The initial assessment is a cursory look; it will take many more weeks to further understand and analyze the full extent of the effects of the event. A number of support buildings in the immediate area have broken windows and imploded doors. A sounding rocket launcher adjacent to the pad, and buildings nearest the pad, suffered the most severe damage.

At Pad 0A the initial assessment showed damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods, as well as debris around the pad.

The Wallops team also met with a group of state and local officials, including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Marine Police, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Wallops environmental team also is conducting assessments at the site. Preliminary observations are that the environmental effects of the launch failure were largely contained within the southern third of Wallops Island, in the area immediately adjacent to the pad. Immediately after the incident, the Wallops’ industrial hygienist collected air samples at the Wallops mainland area, the Highway 175 causeway, and on Chincoteague Island. No hazardous substances were detected at the sampled locations.

Additional air, soil and water samples will be collected from the incident area as well as at control sites for comparative analysis.

The Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Resources Commission reported today they have not observed any obvious signs of water pollution, such as oil sheens. Furthermore, initial assessments have not revealed any obvious impacts to fish or wildlife resources. The Incident Response Team continues to monitor and assess.

Following the initial assessment, the response team will open the area of Wallops Island, north of the island flagpole opposite of the launch pad location, to allow the U.S. Navy to return back to work.

Anyone who finds debris or damage to their property in the vicinity of the launch mishap is cautioned to stay away from it and call the Incident Response Team at 757-824-1295.

Further updates on the situation and the progress of the ongoing investigation will be available at:

http://www.orbital.com

and

https://www.nasa.gov/orbital

NASA Statement Regarding Oct. 28 Orbital Sciences Corp. Launch Failure

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard suffers a catastrophic anomaly moments after launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard suffers a catastrophic anomaly moments after launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The following statement is from William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, regarding the launch failure that occurred at Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia during the attempted launch of Orbital Sciences Corp’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft at 6:22 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28.

“While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences’ third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today’s mishap. The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies.

“Orbital has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first two missions to the station earlier this year, and we know they can replicate that success. Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback. Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”

› NASA’s Orbital webpage
› Video of NASA news conference following mishap

NASA, Orbital CRS-3 Press Conference Scheduled

The Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket lifted off to start its third resupply mission to the International Space Station, but suffered a catastrophic anomaly shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT.

The Orbital Sciences team is executing its contingency procedures, securing the site and data, including all telemetry from the Antares launch vehicle and Cygnus spacecraft.

Before launch the Orbital team was not tracking any issues.

No injuries have been reported, and Orbital reports that all personnel around  the Wallops Flight Facility launch site have been accounted for.

NASA will continue to provide additional updates as they become available. A news conference will be held on NASA TV at 9 p.m. EDT.

Visit for the latest information.

Weather Upgraded to 100% Favorable

The countdown is progressing smoothly for the 6:22 p.m. EDT launch of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft. There are no technical concerns with the rocket or spacecraft being worked. The weather for this evening’s launch is at 100-percent favorable. Cygnus will carry some 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.

Live coverage on NASA TV is under way.

› How to View Oct. 28′s Antares Launch
› Share your launch photos with NASA on Flickr
› Related images on Flickr
› More about Wallops Flight Facility’s history
› NASA’s Orbital website

Preview of Antares Launch Milestones

The countdown is progressing smoothly for the 6:22 p.m. EDT launch of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft. There are no technical concerns with the rocket or spacecraft being worked. The weather for this evening’s launch is predicted to be 97 percent favorable. Cygnus will carry some 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. NASA TV coverage begins at 5:30 p.m.

This graphic previews some of the milestones that occur following the Antares rocket’s liftoff, leading up through separation of the Cygnus CRS-3 spacecraft.

This image (not to scale) shows some of the milestones following launch and leading up to spacecraft separation. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.
This image (not to scale) shows some of the milestones following launch and leading up to spacecraft separation. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.

› How to View Oct. 28′s Antares Launch
› Share your launch photos with NASA on Flickr
› Related images on Flickr
› More about Wallops Flight Facility’s history
› NASA’s Orbital website

CRS-3’s Cargo

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport are set to support the launch of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft at 6:22 p.m. EDT today, Oct. 28. Launch coverage on NASA TV will begin at 5:30 p.m.

The Antares rocket will carry Orbital’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft, loaded with some 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments, to the International Space Station. CRS-3 (short for “Commercial Resupply Services”) will be the fourth Cygnus flight, including a demonstration flight in 2013, and the first night launch of an Antares rocket.

Roughly a third of the cargo is a series of scientific investigations.

Selected Scientific Highlights

 NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber
The NanoRacks-Duchesne-Plant Growth Chamber aboard the International Space Station will enable growth of pea shoots in microgravity using red and blue LED lights. Image Credit: Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart

Pea Shoot Growth in Space
One investigation by students from Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston tests the performance of pea shoot growth in space. Pea shoots grow so quickly on Earth that they can be harvested in two to four weeks. They also contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals, making them a potential source of food on long-duration space missions. Students will identify the best combinations of red and blue LED lights, which are used in the plant growth chamber, by analyzing the plants’ mineral content upon return to Earth. The investigation is facilitated by NanoRacks and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

Drain Brain
A human health study called Drain Brain will inform understandings of blood flow in space to possibly aid in the treatment of headaches and other neurological systems reported by crew members living on the space station. The special neck collar, called a strain-gauge plethysmograph, used to measure blood flow from the brain for the Drain Brain study, does not require surgery or special knowledge to operate. This could make the collar a useful tool for monitoring patients on Earth who have heart or brain disorders. Drain Brain also could have implications for development of screening mechanisms for cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Students from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey
Students from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey preparing for their research investigation that will launch to the International Space Station as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) with the third Orbital commercial resupply mission. Credit: SSEP

Yankee Clipper
A group of 18 student-led investigations, collectively part of the Yankee Clipper suite of research under the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), offers young scientists the opportunity to conceive of, design, implement and analyze scientific research questions in space. The studies investigate a range of topics from a crystal growth study that will enable students to learn more about how fluids act and form into crystals in the absence of gravity to how microgravity affect milk spoilage. Yankee Clipper is the eighth flight opportunity associated with the SSEP, an initiative of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in partnership with NanoRacks.

Reentry Breakup Recorder-W (REBR)
REBR uses the flight-verified REBR data collection and transmission system to record data during the reentry and breakup of a vehicle from wireless sensors placed throughout the host vehicle, and return the data for analysis to validate reentry hazard prediction models.

Perseid meteor as seen from ISS in 2011
A Perseid meteor streaks through the Earth’s atmosphere, as seen and photographed by astronaut Ron Garan while aboard the International Space Station on August 13, 2011. Credit: NASA

Meteor
The Meteor Composition Determination, or Meteor, uses high-resolution video and image analysis of the atmosphere to learn about the physical and chemical properties of meteoroid dust, which includes size, density and chemical composition. Investigating the elemental composition of meteors adds to our understanding of how the planets developed. Continuous measurement of meteor interactions with Earth’s atmosphere also could spot previously unforeseen meteor showers.

Total Cargo: 4,883 pounds

  • Science investigations: 1,602.8 pounds
  • Crew supplies: 1,649 pounds

Flight crew equipment: 273.4 pounds
Food: 1,360.3 pounds
Flight procedures books: 15.4 pounds

  • Vehicle hardware: 1,404.3 pounds
  • Spacewalk equipment: 145.5 pounds
  • Computer resources: 81.6 pounds

› How to View Oct. 28′s Antares Launch
› Share your launch photos with NASA on Flickr
› Related images on Flickr
› More about Wallops Flight Facility’s history
› NASA’s Orbital website