Monday Morning Launch Will Be Visible Across 1000 Miles Of U.S. East Coast

Private Spaceflight Company Orbital ATK is launching supplies to the International Space Station before Monday’s sunrise, and millions along the U.S. East Coast could see it.

Image courtesy of Orbital ATK

Rollout of the Antares rocket to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Launch Pad 0A took place Thursday evening, following final cargo loading Wednesday, May 16.

Originally scheduled for Sunday morning, Orbital ATK announced Friday that their OA-9 Commercial Resupply mission to the International Space Station would be delayed to Monday, “to support further pre-launch inspections and more favorable weather conditions.”

Now slated for NET Monday, May 21 at 4:39am EDT, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft will carry nearly 7,400 pounds of hardware, experiments, and other supplies for the current Expedition 55, and upcoming ISS crew members.

While most US-based launches take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, this rocket will be lifting off from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, creating a unique viewing opportunity hundreds of miles up and down the east coast. 

This will be the ninth launch of a Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS, and the seventh atop the company’s 42.5 meter tall, two-stage Antares 230 rocket from the Virginia-based facility. Provided clear, early morning skies, spectators from South Carolina to Boston will be able to see the engine plume for up to about three minutes during the first-stage ascent. 

Cygnus is scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS Thursday morning, May 24. Expedition 55 crew members Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold will use the Canadarm2 for a scheduled 5:20am EDT capture and berthing of the spacecraft to the nadir (earth-facing) port of the space station’s Harmony node, where it will remain for almost two months. 

Image courtesy of Orbital ATK

 Photos courtesy of NASA

Photos courtesy of NASA

In continuing the company’s tradition of naming the Cygnus spacecraft for individuals who have contributed significantly to the nation’s space program, Orbital ATK announced earlier this month the OA-9 Cygnus to be designated the S.S. J.R. Thompson. The first non-astronaut to bare the honor, James “J.R.” Thompson, held several prominent positions in the spaceflight industry throughout his life. Thompson worked more than two decades at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he eventually served as Director. In 1991, following three years as NASA Deputy Administrator, Thompson began his twenty-five year tenure at Orbital ATK’s predecessor company, Orbital Sciences Corp, where he worked until his retirement in 2013. 

Monday’s launch is scheduled for 4:39am EDT, and currently holds an 80% chance of acceptable launch weather conditions. In the event of a launch scrub on Monday, additional backup dates have been scheduled through May 25, according to an email from Wallops Communications Specialist Keith Kohler.

To watch the launch live, tune into NASA TV