Orbital ATK Successfully Launches OA-8 Cygnus Spacecraft

An Orbital ATK Antares carrying the S.S. Gene Cernan OA-8 Cygnus spacecraft successfully launched from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sunday, November 12. The OA-8 Cygnus spacecraft will deliver 3,300 kilograms (7,400 pounds) of supplies to the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

“Today’s successful launch of the OA-8 Cygnus on our Antares launch vehicle once again demonstrates the reliability of Orbital ATK’s hardware along with our commitment to deliver critical cargo to astronauts on the International Space Station,” said Frank Culbertson, President of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group in an official press release.

The OA-8 Cygnus spacecraft was officially dubbed the S.S. Gene Cernan in honour of the late astronaut. It will deliver scientific experiments, hardware and crew supplies to ISS. Once released from ISS docking, it will deploy 14 CubeSats from a NanoRacks deployer. The S.S. Gene Cernan will then perform a destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere along with 2,000 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of disposable cargo from the station.

The S.S. Gene Cernan will dock with the ISS at 11:15 GMT (06:15 EST) on November 14. The docking will be streamed on NASA Live.

Although Sunday’s launch went off without a hitch, the original launch window on Saturday had to be scrubbed seconds before launch. Orbital ATK and NASA officials were forced to abort the launch at the last second due to an errant aircraft straying into the vicinity of the launch pad. However, ground crew at Wallops Flight Facility were able to pull off a staggering 24-hour turnaround to have the Antares 230 ready for launch the very next morning.

Saturday's scrubbed Orbital ATK OA-8 Cygnus launch.
The Antares launch vehicle on the pad with the OA-8 Cygnus spacecraft aboard before Saturday’s scrubbed launch.

While Orbital ATK’s senior management are delighted with Sunday’s successful launch, they have already shifted focus towards preparing for future CRS missions. “While the Antares team celebrates a successful launch today, we’re already well into building the vehicles for the next two missions,” said Scott Lehr, President of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group. “We will be ready to launch again whenever Cygnus needs us.”

Orbital ATK secured portions of both NASA’s CRS-1 and CRS-2 contracts. Under CRS-1, the company is set to deliver 30,000 kilograms (66,000 pounds) of cargo to ISS. Delivery on the second CRS contract will commence in 2019 and include six separate cargo launches.

Sunday’s launch comes less than two weeks after Orbital ATK launched 10 SkySat and Dove satellites into orbit aboard a Minotaur-C.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.