The Orbital ATK Antares rocket went back into action with a beautiful night launch.
Finally, there was the much-desired liftoff. This is the first time in two years time duration that an Orbital ATK Antares rocket got launched into space. Towards eventide, the rocket undertook departure from NASA’s Wallop’s Flight Facility.
The mission was meant to deliver supplies to the ISS. At 7:45 pm EDT, the upgraded Antares rocket flew into the night sky. It had the Cygnus cargo capsule on board. Millions of people saw this sight from their vantage point on the East Coast.
The rocket was visible all the way from Boston to South Carolina. After the launch, Antares entered low-earth orbit. About 9 minutes into the mission, the Cygnus cargo capsule entered the orbit and it consisted of 5100 pounds of scientific equipment, hardware as well as other paraphernalia for the astronauts on board the ISS.
The stakes this time around are definitely high. When Orbital ATK tried to launch a rocket two years ago, it ended in an explosion. This was just a couple of seconds after liftoff.
The present mission is termed OA-5. It is the sixth official cargo resupply mission for NASA. Also it happens to be the fourth one using an Antares rocket. Just recently, NASA and Orbital ATK officials had been full of hope that this time around everything would go well.
After the explosion two years ago, the launch pad took $15 million to be reconstructed. This time around though the experiment was not a failure.
In fact, it was one of the cleanest launch activities that has ever been pulled off. Although everything went just fine, a small glitch in the ground cable caused a postponing of the launch by a single day.
Also a few days prior to the launch, Hurricane Nicole was extant so things were put on hold for awhile. Since the Antares rocket liftoff was put off for a few days, the novel schedule of its arrival on the ISS coincides with the arrival of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft at the same space site.
This Russian mission will be taking three astronauts to the ISS. Cygnus will have to wait for its turn by hovering in space for awhile till the time is right for docking on to the ISS.
Orbital ATK’s $1.9 billion contract with NASA has stipulated that it will carry 66,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS spread out over a course of 10 missions.