The delayed launch of the Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS), that was delayed three times this week owing to bad weather, will be lifted off today, Sunday, December 6, 2015, said US space agency NASA.
Where to Watch Live?
Live coverage of the launch and ISS berthing will be available on NASA Television at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.
The launch will be by private US space firm Orbital ATK, that had a its third cargo mission destroyed in an explosion in October 2014. Even SpaceX, the other private agency had similar launch explosion in June this year.
“Saturday’s attempt was called off because of high winds that were expected to violate launch criteria throughout the 30-minute launch window,” said NASA in a statement.
The delay was attributed to thick clouds and high winds over the launch venue at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the state of Florida since Thursday.
Orbital ATK will try today to launch the mission at 4:44 p.m. EST (2144 GMT) with a 30-minute launch window as NASA hopes the weather forecast would be better for acceptable conditions for launch.
Orbital ATK and SpaceX have been roped in by NASA after it has retired its space shuttles to carry cargo to the International Space station.
Orbital ATK said the company’s current Cygnus spacecraft cargo mission to ISS marks the first launch of a Cygnus spacecraft aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket and will be Orbital ATK’s fourth operational mission (OA-4) to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
The mission also marks the debut of the enhanced Cygnus, which will carry approximately 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of cargo to astronauts aboard the ISS.
“We are pleased that the enhanced Cygnus that bears his name will be able to provide up to 53 percent more in cargo weight to the International Space Station than our previously flown standard version,” said Orbital in a statement.
The launch was originally scheduled for Thursday, December 3, at 5:55 p.m. (EST) from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and rescheduled for Friday and again for Sunday.
Cygnus will be launched into a targeted orbit of 143 x 144 miles above the Earth, inclined at 51.64 degrees to the equator. Following in-orbit activation and testing after launch, the spacecraft will rendezvous and berth with the ISS three days later, which will be December 9.
Orbital ATK has named the OA-4 Cygnus the “S.S. Deke Slayton II,” upholding the tradition of naming each Cygnus in honor of astronauts. “With the naming of this spacecraft, we continue our commitment to honor the late Donald ‘Deke’ K. Slayton, one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts and a champion of America’s commercial space program and leadership in space,” said Frank Culbertson, President of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group.
Cygnus, like most Orbital ATK spacecraft, is compatible with multiple launch vehicles, enabling the use of ULA’s Atlas V launch vehicle on this mission.
Other features of Cygnus added for this mission include lightweight UltraFlexTM solar arrays, a mass optimized Service Module structure and a lighter weight propulsion system.
In addition to food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, the Cygnus spacecraft is carrying science experiments to expand the research capability of the Expedition 45 and 46 crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Orbital ATK has three more cargo missions scheduled in 2016 for ISS. The second Cygnus/Atlas V launch will take place next spring from Florida, followed by the return of operations to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in mid-2016 where the company will continue CRS missions atop the upgraded Antares rocket.
Under the CRS contract with NASA, Orbital ATK will deliver approximately 62,000 pounds (28,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over 10 missions through 2018.