Cygnus inbound for ISS

 The Antares 230 rocket leaps off the pad carrying the OA-5 Cygnus cargo ship. Photo Credit: NASA

The Antares 230 rocket leaps off the pad carrying the OA-5 Cygnus cargo ship. Photo Credit: NASA

Orbital ATK launched their OA-5 Cygnus cargo ship, named the S.S. Alan Poindexter, on the return-to-flight of the company's Antares rocket. The vehicle lifted off at 7:45 p.m. EDT (11:45 GMT) Oct. 18 out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Launch Pad 0A in Virginia.

This was the seventh planned launch of a Cygnus spacecraft and, once it arrives at the International Space Station, will be the sixth to dock with the outpost. Two years ago, the Orb-3 Cygnus was lost when the Antares rocket carrying it into orbit failed seconds after liftoff.

 The mission patch for the OA-5 mission. Image Credit: Orbital ATK

The mission patch for the OA-5 mission. Image Credit: Orbital ATK

This Cygnus however, is currently healthy and is expected to arrive at the football field-sized laboratory, Oct. 23, giving give the crew of Soyuz MS-02 time to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, currently slated for Oct. 19, and arrive to the outpost on Friday. 

After settling in for a couple of days, the now six-person Expedition 49 crew will see the arrival of the commercial freighter Sunday morning. A member of the crew will take command of the robotic Canadarm2 and grab Cygnus when it gets to within about 10 meters below the Destiny lab.

Then, ground teams will command the arm to berth it to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module. Once the hatch is opened, the crew will begin to unload the 2,400 kilograms of equipment, food and experiments.

After being berthed for about a month, the crew will load the craft will unneeded supplies and trash. It will then be unberthed and sent a safe distance from the ISS. There it will perform a remote fire experiment called SAFFIRE II.

Once SAFFIRE II completes its experiment and all the data down-linked to Earth, the craft will be commanded to deorbit and burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

In the coming week, be sure to check out Orbital Velocities Cygnus page under the Visiting Vehicles tab. It will be updated to include details about the cargo ship as well as a three to four minute video about it and its history.

Video courtesy of NASA

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Derek Richardson

I am a space geek who loves to write about space.

My passion for space ignited when I watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on October 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, I soon realized that my true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

Currently, I am a senior at Washburn University studying Mass Media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism. In addition to running Orbital Velocity, I write for the Washburn Review and am the Managing Editor for SpaceFlight Insider.