ISS Set to Receive Orbital ATK and SpaceX Resupply Missions in Rapid Succession

Return of the Dragon Credit: NASA

Return of the Dragon
Credit: NASA

The International Space Station will see quite a bit of traffic in the next few weeks.

Later today, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos will launch to the Station from the Baikonour Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Liftoff of the Soyuz booster and spacecraft is set for 5:26 PM EDT. (3:26 AM Local). NASA television coverage starts at 4:30 PM.

The Expedition 47/48 crew will barely have time to get their bags unpacked before a ULA Atlas V blasts off from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday, March 22, carrying the Orbital ATK resupply ship S.S. Rick Husband as part of the OA-5 OA-6 mission. It is the fifth in the series overall, and the second to use the Atlas V, but the numerical assignments for the next two Cygnus missions were switched due to the change in rides. The OA-5 mission, tentatively scheduled for late May, will mark the return to flight of the Orbital ATK Antares booster this time in its 230 configuration, powered by twin RD-181 first stage engines.

Liftoff of the second enhanced Cygnus cargo vessel carrying 7,500 lbs. of equipment, supplies and research experiments is scheduled from Space Launch Complex 41 at 11:05 PM, the beginning of a 30 minute launch window. NASA television coverage begins at 10 PM. A second launch opportunity is available the next day.

If launch takes place on time, the Cygnus will arrive at the Station on Saturday, March 26, with grappling by the Canadarm-2 robotic arm scheduled for 6:40 AM. It will remain at the Station until May after which it will depart and perform a first of its kind fire experiment while still in orbit several days before it re-enters the atmosphere.

For much of its stay at ISS, the Cygnus will have some interesting company. The first SpaceX Dragon to launch since last year’s CRS-7 mishap on June 28th is now scheduled to lift off on Friday, April 8th at 4:43 PM EDT. The CRS-8 mission, which will be the first going to Station using the Falcon 9 Full Thrust, will be carrying some highly anticipated hardware; the Bigelow Aerospace expandable habitat module  (BEAM) that will be attached to the space station for testing. The third Bigelow module to go to orbit overall, and first to be accessible to crew, the SpaceX/Bigelow combination could be a preview of coming attractions which will eventually be showing across much of the inner solar system.

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3 Comments on "ISS Set to Receive Orbital ATK and SpaceX Resupply Missions in Rapid Succession"

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  1. Zed_Weasel says:

    Minor correction. It is OA-6 for the latest Orbital-ATK Cygnus mission. Next Cygnus mission is OA-5 with the new Antares launcher. Which got delay by the launcher availability after the mission numbers were assigned.

  2. PK Sink says:

    And let’s not forget the second generation 3-D printer going up on Cygnus. Between that, Beam, and a potentially reusable Falcon 9 rocket, it’s starting to look like we’re watching a dream being born. Fingers crossed.

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