LISA Pathfinder delayed one day; Cygnus ready to fly

The ESA/NASA collaboration called LISA (Laser Inferometer Space Antenna) Pathfinder that has waited years to fly is going to have to wait one more day.  It’s sitting on a Vega rocket in Kourou, French Guiana, but launch today has been waved off due to concerns about the performance of the rocket’s upper stage in the remote environment in which it will be expected to operate.  This is the first Vega mission to go beyond Earth orbit, as LISA Pathfinder’s target is the Sun-Earth L1 point, and the Italian-built and Ukrainian-powered fourth stage is untested in that regime; there are some thermal concerns that will be analyzed.  If it gets the go-ahead, the next launch opportunity is tomorrow evening at 10:04 PM CST (or Thursday morning at 1:04 AM local time).  LISA Pathfinder was built by Airbus Defense and Space in Stevenage, UK and will be operated by the European Space Agency.

Whether that flies or not, the next scheduled launch is set for Thursday evening between 5:55 and 6:25 PM EST from Cape Canaveral Air Station: an Atlas V bearing the OA-4 Cygnus capsule bound for the International Space Station.  It will be Atlas’ first ISS-bound flight.  Orbital Sciences has bought two Atlas Vs, so the next Cygnus will also ride up on one.  After that, Atlas will continue serving the ISS by lifting the CST-100 Starliners.  I have seen no word yet as to the name of this Cygnus spacecraft; so far, Orbital has named each spacecraft for an astronaut.  The last one was named “Deke Slayton”, and changed to “Deke Slayton I” after the accident, so I suspect this one might go up as “Deke Slayton II”.  But we’ll have to wait and see.  😉

Photo 8

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