Liftoff: Orbital ATK’s Antares Rocket Successfully Launches Cargo to ISS
Orbital ATK's Antares rocket has returned to flight after a successful launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on the evening of Oct. 17.
The nighttime launch, which had been visible from the U.S. East Coast (from Boston to central South Carolina), marks the first flight of Antares since October 2014, when an older version of the rocket exploded shortly after liftoff.
Antares carried Orbital's OA-5 Cygnus cargo ship filled with more than 5,000 pounds of food, supplies, and science experiments bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment payloads included the Saffire II experiment, which will study the combustion behavior in microgravity, and a nanoracks CubeSat deployer, which will be used for weather forecasting.
Since the explosion, the rocket's main engines had been overhauled with two new Russian-made RD-181 first stage engines. Shortly after liftoff, Cygnus separated from the rocket and deployed its solar array panels.
"It's great to see the way people came together and made this happen," Frank Culberston, president of the space systems group at Orbital ATK, told CNN. "It was done right and that's the important thing."
NASA officials and Orbital ATK representatives earlier said that the rocket is in better shape and expressed their confidence that the launch will go well. However, despite Antares' good health, a faulty ground support cable detected at the launch pad before the supposed Sunday liftoff had forced NASA and Orbital ATK to postpone the launch by a day. The launch had already been delayed from last week when Hurricane Nicole swept past Bermuda where a NASA ground station is positioned to track the rocket.
Cygnus is expected to arrive at the ISS on Sunday, Oct. 23. As it approaches the ISS, the space station's robotic arm will grab the spacecraft and dock it. It will remain at the ISS for five weeks and will depart in November carrying trash from the space station.
Orbital ATK is already looking ahead to the vehicle's next resupply mission, which is scheduled later this year.