Antares Lifts Off on Orbital-2 Flight to ISS

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the ship as named after Janet Voss.

After two days of delays due to inclement weather during attempts to roll out to the pad, an Orbital Sciences Antares booster lifted off at 12:52 pm EDT today, carrying a Cygnus cargo ship named in honor of NASA astronaut Janice Voss.

First stage flight performance was flawless, with the twin 40 year old Russian NK-33 rocket engines reworked by Aerojet-Rocketdyne and re-designated as the AJ-26 powering the Ukraine supplied stage quickly upwards and out of sight through a hazy summer sky. Following stage separation and a brief coast, the second stage solid rocket motor supplied by ATK ignited driving the remainder of the stack to orbit.

Payload fairing separation and Cygnus spacecraft separation were equally uneventful, and a little over ten minute after it was sitting on the Virginia coast, the Cygnus successfully deployed its solar panels to begin its three day trek to ISS.

Grapple by the Canadarm 2 remote manipulator is scheduled for Wednesday morning at 6:39 am after which the Cygnus will be berthed to the Earth facing port of the Harmony module.

Cygnus is stocked with approximately 3,300 lbs. of supplies including replacement hardware, crew provisions, and science experiments. Also aboard, another “flock” of 28 Earth Dove observation nanosatellites for Planet Labs. Once delivered to ISS, the satellites will be deployed into space from the J-SSOD (JEM-Small Satellite Orbital Deployer), located in the airlock of Japan’s Kibo module,

Other noteworthy deliveries include TechEdSat-4, a NASA’s Ames Research Center project to develop an independent  small payload return capability using an “exo-brake” to passively control re-entry allowing samples to be returned from ISS at will. Also aboard is another Ames experiment, the Smart Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), which will use cameras to enable 3-D mapping and robotic navigation inside the space station.

Today’s flight marked OSC’s second cargo delivery flight to the station through a $1.9 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract, and its third overall.  It was also the fourth successful flight of the Antares booster.

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