NASA and Northrop Grumman plan to launch the Cygnus spacecraft Thursday night over the Antares rocket from the Regional Space Port platform 0A in the mid-Atlantic at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore.
Weather permitting, the launch will be visible from Carolina to Connecticut. Night launches like these can be easier to see from hundreds of miles from the launch site. Look for a dim spot of light rising from the northeast and moving up and to the right between 9:40 PM and 9:45 PM tonight.
A clear view from the northeast to eastern sky will provide the best view. The darker your sky and the fewer homes, trees, and other chaos on the horizon, the better.
The five-minute launch window opens at 9:38 PM, but you’ll need to wait a few minutes after launch to see it. Due to the curvature of the Earth, the missile would not reach the visible altitude of the southeast triangle to Wilmington until 2.5 minutes after launch. You will see Elizabeth City and the Northern Areas of the Outer Banks about a minute before.
Residents of the upper floors of apartment buildings in Raleigh City Center will have a good viewing seat.
The latest launch weather forecast shows 70% of operating conditions at the launch site. Here in central North Carolina, the forecast calls for predominantly clear skies in the mid-1960s around the time of launch as clouds increase overnight.
What is on board
The launch will provide 7,758 scientific research, supplies and equipment for astronauts on board the International Space Station.
- Comprehensive waste management system (UWMS): the next generation of space toilet. This provides a second toilet fully compatible with the microgravity of the crew aboard the International Space Station, and is the same design planned for the Orion capsule.
- Crew Emergency Respiration Air Kit (CEBAA): Supplying emergency air to up to five crew members in emergency situations such as an ammonia spill.
- New Acrylic Dome Scratch Board: This upgraded trapezoidal part will provide improved optics for the crew when the dome is in use.
- Common Communication Visiting Vehicle (C2V2) data converter: Hardware that enables software upgrades used for a variety of cargo and crew capsules that dock with the International Space Station
- Functional charge block devices: fan, battery, and consumables to support scheduled maintenance in orbit. Crews spend most of their time cleaning and maintaining the International Space Station.
- ARED Equipment Replacement: Spare parts including belts, pulleys, and table cover replacement for crew training equipment. The crew schedule includes ample time set aside for exercise to prevent bone and muscle loss while in orbit.
In addition to the crew’s standard menu and food containers, NASA shared a list of stable and fresh foods ordered by the crew and included in the shipment:
Garlic, apples, baby carrots, grapefruit, orange, cherry tomatoes, wild berry, prosciutto, chorizo, cranberry covered in dark chocolate, Genoa salami, hot chocolate, sweetened pecans, smoked gouda, smoked provolone, summer sausage and buns.
Cygnus will remain attached for about three months when he is separated from the station and moving on to his extended mission.
- Saffire Fire Safety: The fourth of a series of studies on how fire behaves in microgravity, designed to help develop procedures for crews to better deal with emergency situations caused by fires in space.
- SharkSat: Ka-Band Software Defined Radio, Technology Explorer with 5G Applications, Advanced Satellite Communications
Northrop Grumman announced in September that the spacecraft would be named after NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the first woman born in India to enter space. Chawla lost with six of her colleagues in 2003 during the STS-107 mission, when the space shuttle Columbia did not survive its return to Earth.