RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Today is go-time for Orbital Sciences, and they did it! Orbital successfully launched Antares at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday, September 18 from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
The “mid-size” rocket carries an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft, which will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) after performing a series of tests in space. Similar to SpaceX, Orbital has an agreement with NASA to send supplies to the astronauts on the ISS. In official terms, “The goal of the mission is to demonstrate the complete Orbital commercial delivery system from the launch of the Cygnus advanced cargo logistics spacecraft aboard Antares and the rendezvous of Cygnus with the International Space Station (ISS), through unloading of cargo from Cygnus and loading of disposal cargo, to Cygnus departure from the ISS and reentry over the Pacific Ocean.”
If this mission is successful from take-off to splash-down, then Orbital will send supplies to the ISS eight times through 2016, all of them launching from Wallops.
This was the Antares rocket carrying Cygnus (on top) ready to go at the launch pad:
This is what the Cygnus spacecraft looks like when it’s in space, with solar rays deployed:
IMAGE: NASA WALLOPS. A full-scale mock-up of the Cygnus spacecraft is on display at the Chincoteague Community Center on Chincoteague Island, VA.
Watch this time-lapse of the weekend roll-out and prep for the launch:
Because this was a daytime launch, spotting the rocket was more difficult for you than the LADEE mission launch earlier this month at night. The daylight drowned out a lot of its relative brightness, thus making it harder to spot from central Virginia. But some of you could faintly see the rocket’s contrail to the east. Richmond International Airport’s rooftop camera spotted it, faintly.
IMAGE: Richmond International Airport
With mostly clear skies, this was the region that could feasibly spot the light/plume:
This is the path of the rocket, as viewed from Richmond:
However, if you really want to see this (or future launches) in all its glory, I encourage you to plan to get as close to the launch site as possible.
If you are interested in viewing launches in the Chincoteague, Va., area, the recommended launch viewing sites are the NASA Wallops Flight facility Visitors Center (http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/wvc) or the Assateague National Seashore (http://www.nps.gov/asis/index.htm). Getting along the Bay or at Virginia Beach will help, too. Other information about how to spot the launch from the Mid-Atlantic is here: http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/MissionUpdates/Orb-D1.
Can’t make it to the Eastern Shore? You can still watch launches live on NASA TV here: www.nasa.gov/ntv.