Next Antares launch from Wallops could be delayed
Orbital Science Corp.'s next cargo mission from Wallops Island to the International Space Station is officially May 6 — but that launch might be postponed a month or more because of a wide range of issues, officials say.
First, a fire at Cape Canaveral in Florida knocked out some of its radar tracking ability, said Orbital spokesman Barron "Barry" Beneski from his Dulles office.
Then, in a sort of domino effect, that radar loss delayed two launches from the Cape, including one by SpaceX, the other company that makes commercial resupply runs to the space station for NASA.
California-based SpaceX is currently set to launch Monday, but must stay at the station for at least 28 days to accommodate various science experiments.
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After that comes a scheduled crew rotation at the station, Beneski said, which will leave the ISS without a full complement in the second half of May.
Finally, while the station is understaffed, it will also encounter something called a "beta solar angle cutout," meaning its orbit orientation won't be "optimally aligned" with the sun, he said, leaving it temporarily under-powered.
"They know this is going to happen," Beneski said. "It's no emergency."
So if SpaceX launches as planned, NASA Wallops says, the next available date for Orbital to launch its Antares rocket and Cygnus space freighter would be sometime after June 9, with a rendezvous and berthing two days later.
If SpaceX doesn't launch, Beneski said, it is possible that Orbital will still launch as planned, while SpaceX would be bumped back.
In the meantime, both Orbital and NASA Wallops Flight Facility say they continue to work toward a May 6 afternoon launch for the Antares, but will change the date as needed.
"So keep your eyes on Florida," said Beneski.
Quelle: Daily Press