NASA’s Cygnus launch to the International Space Station this week may be visible along much of the East Coast, depending on weather conditions.
An unmanned Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft will launch Thursday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on one of the company’s Antares rockets. The launch, which was pushed back from Tuesday because of unfavorable weather, will take place no earlier than 9:38 p.m. EDT on Thursday, according to the space agency.
If weather conditions allow, the rocket will be visible in Washington, D.C., 90 seconds after launch and in New York City 150 seconds after liftoff, NASA says.
NASA explained that the spacecraft will be loaded with nearly 8,000 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware. Space.com reports that a new space toilet is among the items being transported to the space station.
The Cygnus spacecraft, named the SS Kalpana Chawla, after the NASA astronaut who died in the Columbia disaster, is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting space lab on Nov. 4. “Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA will grapple Cygnus and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos will act as a backup,” explained NASA, in a statement. “After Cygnus capture, mission control in Houston will send ground commands for the station’s robotic arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.”
Cygnus will leave the space station in mid-December. “Following departure, the Saffire-V experiment will be conducted prior to Cygnus deorbit and disposing of several tons of trash during a fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere approximately two weeks later,” NASA said in its statement.
The Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiments (Saffire) are designed to investigate major flame growth and material flammability limits in space. “The experiments are ignited in a Cygnus cargo vehicle after it has completed its primary International Space Station supply mission, departed the station, and before its planned destructive reentry to Earth,” the space agency explains, on its website.
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