The Orbital ATK Antares rocket returned to flight on October 17th with a launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. I was on-site to witness and document the event for Science Strike Force as part of the NASASocial program. The attached video is one of the results.
The launch was actually scheduled for the previous evening, but an underperforming ground cable (not part of the Antares rocket) led to a 24 hour delay as the problem was addressed.
The Antares was the same rocket that suffered catastrophic failure two years ago, so this was a significant day for Orbital ATK. We congratulate them on this flawless launch!
The Antares rocket propelled the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments into orbit to meet with the ISS as part of the Commercial Resupply Services agreement with NASA.
This public-private partnership represents the future of the US space program. While the business of maintaining and resupplying the ISS and putting satellites into low earth orbit is performed by private sector companies, NASA is free to continue to develop next-generation propulsion systems and spacecraft that will take humanity to Mars and beyond. According to NASA, key accomplishments of this partnership includes:
Restoration of American capability to deliver and return ISS cargo, replacing our reliance on foreign providers
Reuse of facilities at Kennedy Space Center and other NASA flight facilities by commercial partners
Adding NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia Eastern Shore as America’s newest spaceport capable of launching to the space station and opening up additional opportunities for commercial and government users
The increased use of hosted payloads and deployment of CubeSats by more industry and university partners
In the days leading up to the launch, I had the opportunity to talk with many of the people living and working in neighboring towns. When I asked questions like “Does the noise or commotion of these launches bother you?”, the responses were consistent and unwavering. The answers were expressed in a variety of ways, but, at least among those I encountered, could be summed up as “No. We’re proud of what’s being done out there.”
Several thanked me for letting them know of the delayed launch, as they, and their families, wanted to see it happen.
For more information on the NASASocial program, click HERE.