If you live along the East Coast, it’s your lucky night. You just might have a ringside seat for a spectacular night launch to the space station. Orbital ATK’s upgraded Antares rocket will lift off at 7:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia coast. Assuming good weather, Antares will dispatch a Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS). For those not living in the viewing zone, you can watch the launch live on NASA TV beginning at 6:45 p.m. EDT.
Cygnus is loaded with about 5,100 pounds of science investigations, food, supplies and hardware for the space station and its crew. When Cygnus arrives to the ISS on Sunday, Oct. 23, two astronauts will use the station’s robotic arm to grapple the spacecraft. After capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install the Cygnus ship, dubbed the S.S. Alan Poindexter, on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.
The Cygnus spacecraft will spend about five weeks attached to the space station. When it departs in late November, it will be packed with several tons of trash and used in a fire safety experiment as it burns up in the atmosphere during re-entry. While Cygnus is in orbit and before it docks, I hope to get times when we can watch it “chase” the space station across the night sky in a game or orbital cat and mouse the next few nights. As soon I know, you will too.