Cygnus Countdown Continues Amid Weather Concerns

Cygnus at the Lainchpad
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft is at the launch pad in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

For the latest Orbital ATK mission information visit the NASA Orbital blog here… https://blogs.nasa.gov/orbital

Countdown is continuing and progressing smoothly for today’s scheduled launch at 5:33 p.m. EST of the fourth Orbital ATK commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Fueling operations have begun. Today’s 30-minute launch window now has a 40 percent chance of acceptable conditions. The primary concern is that wind speed is trending higher, along with continued cumulus clouds, thick clouds, and ground winds.

The Cygnus spacecraft is set to lift off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying more than 7,000 pounds of supplies and science investigations.

NASA television coverage will begin at 4:30 p.m. and can be seen at https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv. Significant countdown milestones are below.

The cargo includes dozens of science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 45 and 46. For a mission overview, press kit, launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk

To join the online conversation about the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch and the International Space Station on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and #Cygnus.

Orbital ATK Countdown & Launch Highlights

EST                        Event

3:03 p.m.               T-2 hours and counting

Pressurize Centaur liquid oxygen storage tank to chill down level

Start Atlas liquid oxygen ground chill down

Start Centaur bottle pressurization to flight level

Pressurize Atlas RP-1 tank to step II

3:13 p.m.                Start Centaur liquid oxygen transfer line chill down

3:20 p.m.                Begin Centaur liquid oxygen tanking

3:33 p.m.                Start Atlas liquid oxygen tanking operations

3:38 p.m.                Start Centaur liquid hydrogen transfer line chill down

3:53 p.m.                Initiate Centaur engine chill down

4:08 p.m.                Start flight control final preparations

4:23 p.m.                Start flight open loop Flight Termination System test

4:30 p.m.                NASA Television Coverage Begins

4:47 p.m.                Initiate fuel fill sequence

4:59 p.m.                Begin 30 minute hold at T-4 Minutes

5:03 p.m.                Weather Briefing

5:26 p.m.                Status check to continue countdown

5:29:11 p.m.           T-4 Minutes and counting

5:33:08 p.m.           RD-180 engine ignition

5:33:11 p.m.           Launch

5:33:29 p.m.           Begin pitch/yaw/roll maneuver

5:34:33 p.m.           Mach 1

5:34:44 p.m.           Maximum Dynamic Pressure

5:37:26 p.m.           Atlas booster engine cutoff (BECO)

5:37:32 p.m.           Atlas booster/Centaur separation

5:37:42 p.m.           Centaur first main engine start (MES1)

5:37:50 p.m.           Payload Fairing jettison

5:51:27 p.m.           Centaur first main engine cutoff (MECO1)

5:54:16 p.m.           Cygnus spacecraft separation

~6:33 p.m.              Cygnus solar array deploy

~7:33 p.m.              Post-Launch News Conference on NASA Television

Cygnus Stands Ready for Launch Today

Cygnus at the Lainchpad
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft is at the launch pad in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

A new shipment of crew supplies and science experiments is packed inside the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft ready for liftoff today at 5:55 p.m. The Cygnus will launch on top of an Atlas V rocket from a launch pad located at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Cygnus is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station Sunday morning where astronaut Kjell Lindgren will capture the supply ship with Canada’s 57.7 foot robotic arm.

The crew is busy in the orbital lab today exploring the effects of space on life and preparing for Cygnus and a mid-December crew swap.

Scientists are observing Commander Scott Kelly and comparing his body to his twin brother ex-astronaut Mark Kelly. The Twins study seeks to understand how a body in space differs from a similar body on Earth. Kelly also joined fellow crew members Lindgren and Kimiya Yui for eye checks.

Yui and Lindgren also worked with cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko preparing for their Dec. 11 return to Earth ending the Expedition 45 mission. Three new station crew members are preparing to launch Dec. 15.

Veteran cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Mikhail Kornienko continued studying how blood flows while living in space. Volkov then researched the vibration levels on the station and their possible impacts on operations. Kornienko was back at work exploring advanced Earth photography techniques.

Station Ramping Up for New Crew and New Supplies

The Sun's light
The Sun’s light is reflected off a body of water as the space station orbit’s Earth.

A trio of International Space Station residents is getting ready to return to Earth while a new crew in Kazakhstan is preparing to replace them. Meanwhile, a pair of space freighters, the Orbital ATK Cygnus and Russia’s Progress 62 (62P), is being readied for liftoff as another docked cargo craft is being packed before it’s undocking.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft will launch Thursday at 5:55 p.m. EST to the station. The 61P is scheduled for a Dec. 21 liftoff. While mission managers are preparing three different spacecraft for launch this month, the Expedition 45 crew is performing research to help scientists benefit life on Earth and crews in space.

The next home-bound astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui checked their vision and blood pressure today for the Ocular Health study. The duo will return home with Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko Dec. 11 officially ending the Expedition 45 mission. Kononenko participated in a pair of blood circulation experiments, Cosmocard and Cardiovector, and prepared the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft for its departure in less than two weeks.

Commander Scott Kelly, who is staying in space until March with Flight Engineer Sergey Volkov and fellow One-Year crew member Mikhail Kornienko, sampled and tested the station’s water quality. Volkov and Kornienko explored veins in the lower body to understand blood flow during a long-term space mission.

The next crew to live on the space station, Expedition 46, is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site counting down to its Dec. 15 liftoff inside the Soyuz TMA-19M rocket. First-time British astronaut Timothy Peake is joining veteran station crew members Timothy Kopra and Yuri Malenchenko for the six-month mission aboard the orbital laboratory.

Station Gearing Up for Science Delivery and Crew Swap

Expedition 46-47 Crew Members
At the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, the Expedition 46-47 crew poses for pictures following a news conference Nov. 23. (From left) European Space Agency astronaut Timothy Peake, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra.Credit: NASA/Seth Marcantel

The International Space Station residents are gearing up to host the Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter when it arrives Dec. 6. On the ground, a new trio of Expedition 46-47 crew members headed to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan before their mid-December mission.

NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren trained for the rendezvous and robotic capture of Cygnus after its Dec. 3 launch from the Kennedy Space Center. The Cygnus will deliver supplies for the crew and new science experiments Dec. 6 when it is captured and berthed to the Unity module.

Three new station crew members are in the final stage of their mission training before beginning a six-month mission to the orbital laboratory. First-time British astronaut Timothy Peake will join veteran station residents Yuri Malenchenko and Timothy Kopra inside the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft for a six-hour ride to the space station set for Dec. 15.

Meanwhile, advanced space science continued today as the crew explored radiation, blood circulation and microbes living on crew members. Scientists hope to use the results from the many experiments on the station to benefit people on Earth and future crews.

Finally, the crew is packing the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft before its undocking Dec. 11. The Soyuz will bring home Expedition 45-46 crew members Lindgren, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui.