About the Science: What’s on Board OA-8

Orbital ATK will launch its Antares rocket at 7:37 a.m. EST on Nov. 11, 2017, from Virginia Space’s Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus spacecraft atop Antares is loaded with 7,400 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station. Apart from food and other equipment, much of this cargo is research-geared, supporting 300 new or ongoing scientific investigations occurring as part of the International Space Station’s Expedition 53-54.

Here are some highlights of research that will be delivered to the station:

Investigation tests bacterial antibiotic resistance in microgravity
Antibiotic resistance could pose a danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response. E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) will study microgravity’s effect on bacterial antibiotic resistance. The experiment will expose two strains of E. coli, one with a resistance gene, the other without, to three different doses of antibiotics, then examine the viability of each group. Results from this investigation could contribute to determining appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration human spaceflight and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may change as a function of stress on Earth.

EcAMSAT, undergoes thermal vacuum power management testing at NASA Ames. The test simulates the thermal vacuum and power environment of space and is an element of the spacecraft’s flight validation testing program. Credit: NASA

CubeSat used as a laser communication technology testbed
Traditional laser communication systems use transmitters that are far too large for small spacecraft. The Optical Communication Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) tests the functionality of laser-based communications using CubeSats that provide a compact version of the technology. Results from OCSD could lead to significantly enhanced communication speeds between space and Earth and a better understanding of laser communication between small satellites in low-Earth orbit.

Hybrid solar antenna seeks solution to long distance communications in space
As space exploration increases, so will the need for improved power and communication technologies. The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA), a hybrid solar power panel and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages, tests the use of this technology in CubeSat-based environmental monitoring. ISARA may provide a solution for sending and receiving information to and from faraway destinations, both on Earth and in space.

Nitrogen fixation process tested in microgravity environment
The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Biological Nitrogen Fixation) investigation examines how low-gravity conditions affect the nitrogen fixation process of Microclover, a resilient and drought tolerant legume. The nitrogen fixation process, a process by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into a usable form for living organisms, is a crucial element of any ecosystem necessary for most types of plant growth. This investigation could provide information on the space viability of the legume’s ability to use and recycle nutrients and give researchers a better understanding of this plant’s potential uses on Earth.

Life cycle of alternative protein source studied
Mealworms are high in nutrients and one of the most common sources of alternative protein in developing countries. The Effects of Microgravity on the Life Cycle of Tenebrio Molitor (Tenebrio Molitor) investigation studies how the microgravity environment affects the mealworm life cycle. In addition to alternative protein research, this investigation will provide information about animal growth under unique conditions.

Investigation studies advances in plant and crop growth in space
The Life Cycle of Arabidopsis thaliana in Microgravity investigation studies the formation and functionality of the Arabidopsis thaliana, a mustard plant with a well-known genome that makes it ideal for research, in microgravity conditions. The results from this investigation will contribute to an understanding of plant and crop growth in space, a vital aspect to long-term spaceflight missions.

The Biological Nitrogen Fixation and Tenebrio Molitor are student investigations in the Go for Launch! – Higher Orbits program and sponsored by Space Tango and the ISS National Lab, which is managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). The Arabidopsis thaliana investigation, also a student investigation, is a part of the Magnitude.io program, sponsored by Space Tango and CASIS.

OA-8 marks Orbital ATK’s eighth cargo delivery mission to the space station, and the research on board will join many other investigations currently happening aboard the orbiting laboratory. Follow @ISS_Research for more information about the science happening on station.

OA-8 Pre-launch Press Conference Round-up

The pre-launch press conference for tomorrow’s launch has concluded. Systems tests this morning went well, and weather conditions remain green.

Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit to the International Space Station, targeted for 7:37 a.m. EST Nov. 11, 2017, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch window is open for about five minutes.

Systems tests this morning went well, with one nitrogen regulator on the ground being changed out with a replacement this afternoon. Orbital ATK’s minimum temperature constraint for Antares is 20 degrees F, so currently forecast launch temperatures (and the overall weather) are not expected to pose a problem. At launch time, temperatures are expected to be about 25 to 30 degrees.

This time lapse shows Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket rolling out of the HIF (the Horizontal Integration Facility) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Nov. 9. Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black
The mile-long journey from the HIF to the launch pad takes about two hours to complete. This time lapse covers the latter part of that journey. Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black
Once the tilt begins, the total time to go from horizontal to vertical alignment takes roughly 20 minutes. Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black

The countdown clock begins at 1:22 a.m. EST Nov. 11. Fueling begins roughly 90 minutes before launch.  Live NASA TV coverage and commentary will begin at 7 a.m., and Wallops will play live views of the launch pad on Ustream beginning at 1:15 a.m.

Sunrise occurs not long before the launch window opens, which may negatively influence the ability for viewers outside the local area to see the launch.

Launch Visibility Map for OA-8
This map shows the visibility of the upcoming launch of Orbital ATK’s CRS-8 mission from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, with numeric values indicating the time (in seconds) after liftoff the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft may be visible.

The journey from launch to orbit takes about nine minutes, with Cygnus then scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Nov. 13.

Weather Forecast ‘Excellent’ for Tomorrow’s Launch

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft aboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Aside from the unseasonable cold temperatures, weather conditions look excellent for Nov. 11’s launch attempt of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket with no real weather concerns at this time, according to the latest forecast for the range at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Weather at launch time, 7:37 a.m. EST, is forecast at 95 percent favorable.

A strong cold front will move through the Wallops Region this morning, Nov. 10, ushering in the coldest airmass of the season. Gusty northwesterly winds will bring a dry and cold airmass into the Wallops Region, with winds possibly gusting as high as 30-35 mph during the late morning and early afternoon today. A broad area of Canadian high pressure will quickly build in behind the front, centering over the Great Lakes Region and ridging south toward the Wallops Region for Saturday morning’s launch.

The unseasonably cold airmass will allow for shallow cumulus cloud development over the Chesapeake Bay this evening into Saturday morning; however, a northerly component to the wind will force the cumulus cloud cover south and west of the Wallops Region. There is only a very slight chance that the cumulus cloud cover will move over the Wallops Region Saturday morning. This weather setup will bring mostly clear and cold conditions for Saturday morning, with temperatures expected to bottom out in the mid- to upper-20s.

Sunrise at the Launch Pad

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft aboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black
Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black

Antares Raised at Launch Pad-0A

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is raised into the vertical position on launch Pad-0A, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew.

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

OA-8 Launch Blog Kicks Off; Antares Rolls to the Pad

Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit to the International Space Station, targeted for 7:37 a.m EST Nov. 11, 2017, from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will launch on an Antares rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers aboard the station. The spacecraft, named the S.S. Gene Cernan after former NASA astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan, who is the last person to have walked on the moon, will deliver scientific investigations including those that will study communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology. Live NASA TV coverage will begin at 7 a.m. EST on Nov. 11.

Antares Rocket
The Orbital ATK Antares rolled out to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A this morning, Nov. 9, 2017, in preparation for launch at 7:37 a.m. EST, Saturday, Nov. 11, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Antares will carry the company’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft with more than 7,000 pounds of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. The T-48 hour forecast shows a 95 percent probability of acceptable weather for a launch on Nov. 11. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

Aside from the unseasonable cold temperatures, weather conditions look excellent (95 percent favorable) for Saturday’s launch attempt with no real concerns at this time, according to the latest forecast for the launch range.

A strong cold front will move through the Wallops Region Friday morning, ushering in the coldest airmass of the season. Gusty northwesterly winds will accompany the frontal passage on Friday, with winds possibly gusting as high as 30-35 mph. A broad area of Canadian high pressure will quickly build in behind the front, centering over the Great Lakes Region and ridging south toward the Wallops Region for Saturday morning’s launch. This will bring mostly clear and cold conditions for Saturday morning, with temperatures expected to bottom out in the mid to upper 20s.

Launch Visibility Map for OA-8
This map shows the visibility of the upcoming launch of Orbital ATK’s CRS-8 mission from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, with numeric values indicating the time (in seconds) after liftoff the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft may be visible.

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Cargo Resupply Mission Off to ‘a Great Start’

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

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.