The Wallops Flight Facility got back into the International Space Station delivery business Sunday morning. At 7:19 a.m. the Eugene Cernan Cygnus Capsule aboard an Antares rocket blasted off from the MARS space center on Wallops Island in a picture -perfect launch. The launch got Wallops back into the game after an Antares rocket had to be destroyed on launch at the pad in 2014. What followed was two and a half years worth of hard work by Orbital ATK, the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport, NASA Wallops, Delegate Bloxom, Senator Lewis and Governor McAuliffe to make this day possible again.
The Cygnus capsule, named after the late Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut to have walked on the moon, will arrive at the International Space Station early Tuesday morning. Cargo includes several cube sats and various experiments along with needed supplies for the astronauts aboard the ISS. The capsule will remain docked at the ISS until early December when it will be released and will burn up re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. For the first time, the Cygnus will be used as additional space for performing experiments while docked at the ISS.
The launch was postponed 24 hours due to a private aircraft which violated the restricted airspace approximately 6 miles east of Wallops. There was concern Sunday when two boats entered the restricted area off of Wallops. The launch was moved five minutes to 7:19 which was the end of the five minute launch window. The Coast Guard intercepted the boats and got them out of the restricted area allowing the launch to occur.
The launch crew decided to ignore a cloud deck which passed over at launch time which restricted the view of the Antares ascent.