Aerospace company Orbital ATK is all set to launch its OA-8 mission on Saturday, Nov. 11 with cargo to the International Space Station at 7:37 am ET from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va.
Orbital ATK has named the OA-8 Cygnus Cargo Delivery Spacecraft after former astronaut Eugene "Gene" Cernan, who was the last human to step foot on the moon. Cernan had "set records for both lunar surface extravehicular activities and longest time in lunar orbit, paving the way for future human space exploration," said the company.
This is Orbital's eighth mission being sent to ISS as part of the company's contract with NASA and is scheduled for a lift-off during the five-minute launch window opening at 7:37 a.m. EST.
The S.S. Gene Cernan Cygnus will launch aboard an Antares launch vehicle for the sixth time from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to deliver vital supplies and scientific equipment to the station as part of the space company's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA.
"Weather permitting, the launch of Antares from Wallops Island, Virginia, on November 11, 2017 may be widely visible along the East Coast. However, because this is an early morning launch, it is likely that the sun will interfere with viewing from most locations," said Orbital on its official launch website.
Mission Viewing Map:
The cargo-carrying Cygnus spacecraft is expected to reach the space station (ISS) on Monday, Nov. 13 with 7,400 pounds of supplies and scientific equipment, including a high-school student science experiment for studying how peanut plants grow in space. The spacecraft will remain attached to the ISS for one month.
Here is the flight path:
The attached cargo ship will help researchers conduct studies on how space's microgravity affects the E.coli bacteria's resistance to antibiotics, and another NASA experiment will test feasibility of faster communications between people in space and on earth.
After debarking in December, the Cygnus spacecraft will re-enter Earth's atmosphere but burn out, disposing of several tons of trash, said NASA, which has given out contract to supply ISS cargo to two private firms, Orbital and Elon Musk's SpaceX.
Since it enetered the contract with NASA in 2014, this is Orbital ATK's 8th mission of cargo to the International Space Station using its Cygnus spacecraft consisting of two modules: the Service Module (SM) which incorporates the avionics, propulsion and power systems from Orbital ATK's flight proven LEOStar and GEOStar spacecraft buses; and the Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) which carries the crew supplies, spares and scientific experiments.
The Orbital ATK's Dulles, Virginia satellite manufacturing facility assembles and tests the SM module while the PCM is supplied by Thales Alenia Space and is produced in Turin Italy.
In October 2014, similar Antares rocket launch to ISS exploded in its lift-off stage forcing the company to re-examine its material sourcing from a Russian firm. Orbital ATK will soon pass into the hands of defense contractor giant Northrop Grumman which has bought it for about $7.8 billion.