The ISS is going into another busy period with upcoming cargo ship movements. First off, the latest Cygnus spacecraft, SS Gene Cernan, was unberthed and released to fly on its own. SS Gene Cernan now moves into the second part of its mission: deploying nanosatellites, conducting another fire test (Saffire-III, the third and final in the series), and then deorbiting itself safely over the ocean.
The next bit of news is SpaceX preparing for their next flight to the ISS. This will mark the return to flight of LC-40, the Cape Canaveral launchpad that was badly damaged in a Falcon 9/Dragon mishap last year. Liftoff is currently scheduled for December 12, and their traditional pre-flight test fire was conducted yesterday, reinaugurating LC-40’s flame trench (skip ahead two minutes for the fire):
SpaceX has successfully launched the CRS-3 Dragon capsule towards the ISS! High seas prevented recovery of the flyback stage, but they got good telemetry during its descent showing that not only were the landing legs not a problem, the stage was able to halt its spinning, which is what had destroyed the first stage on the last attempt at a flyback test. SpaceX will continue to analyze the data on the flyback. But one thing is for sure: the launch was fully successful, putting Dragon on course to meet the ISS on Easter.
SpaceflightNow also has a lovely set of launch photos by Walter Scriptunas.
After deployment of Dragon, the rocket was scheduled to deploy a cubesat called KickSat loaded with 104 postage-stamp sized satellites called “sprites” that are little more than a microprocessor, some tiny solar cells, and two wires to act as antennas. They transmit messages, with the idea being to substitute size with quantity. At 104, this sets a record for quantity of subsatellites deployed.
The first operational Cygnus mission by Orbital Sciences to the International Space Station has concluded, and was fully successful. The Cygnus spacecraft undocked yesterday, and today deorbited on a destructive path. It delivered 3,232 lbs of material to the station, and disposed of 2,800 lbs of trash.
nasaspaceflight.com: ORB-1 Cygnus departs ISS and complets firey farewell
A software glitch interrupted the planned docking early this morning (Sunday), and Cygnus has been hanging out a safe distance away from the station. Orbital Sciences has already identified the problem, and expects to have a fix uplinked in time to make another attempt on Tuesday. On the upside, this gives viewers on the ground a few more chances to see Cygnus and ISS flying in formation. 😉
SpaceflightNow: Cygnus rendezvous aborted due to data link issue
For pass predictions, check out Heavens Above.
Orbital Sciences will shortly become the second commercial outfit to deliver goods to the ISS. As it’s technically a demonstration flight, no critical cargo is included. However, chocoholics may take some exception to that — the cargo does include chocolate. 😉
Check out rollout pictures of the vehicle here: SpaceflightNow: Antares rocket rolls toward second flight. (Yes, it’s the second flight of Antares; the first one carried a mass model of the Cygnus spacecraft.)
Liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island in Virginia is scheduled for 10:50 AM, Eastern Daylight Time, tomorrow (9:50 AM CDT, or 1450 GMT). You can get live updates and watch it on NASA TV via SpaceflightNow’s Antares COTS-1 Mission Status Page for the flight.