NASA and Northrop Grumman plan the launch of a Cygnus spacecraft Thursday night atop an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia Eastern Shore.

Weather permitting, the launch will be visible from the Carolinas to Connecticut. Night launches such as these can be easier to see from hundreds of miles from the launch site. Look for a dim point of light rising from the east northeast moving up and to the right between 9:40 and 9:45 p.m. tonight.

A clear view of the northeastern to eastern sky will provide the best view. The darker your skies and the fewer houses, trees and other clutter on the horizon the better.

The five-minute launch window opens at 9:38 p.m., but you’ll need to wait a few minutes after launch to see it. Due to the curvature of the Earth, the rocket will not reach altitude visible to the Triangle southeast to Wilmington until just over 2.5 minutes after launch. Elizabeth City and northern areas of the Outer Banks will see it about a minute earlier.

Residents of upper floors of downtown Raleigh apartment buildings will also have a good seat for the show.

Visibility of the October 1 launch of a resupply misison to the ISS

The latest launch weather forecast shows 70% go conditions at the launch site. Here in central North Carolina, the forecasts calls for mostly clear skies in the mid 60s around launch time with clouds increasing overnight.

Live coverage of the launch will begin at 9 p.m. EDT and air on NASA Television and streaming on the agency’s website. You can also follow the progress of the launch on the Wallops Mission Status Center

What’s on board

The launch will bring 7,758 of scientific research, supplies and hardware for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Hardware

  • Universal Waste Management System (UWMS): The next generation space-toilet. This provides a second fully self-contained microgravity-compatible toilet for the crew aboard the ISS, the same design planned for the Orion capsule.
  • Crew Emergency Breathing Air Assembly (CEBAA): Emergency air supply for up to five crew members in an emergency such as an ammonia leak.
  • New Acrylic Cupola Scratch Pane: This upgraded side trapezoid pane will provide improved optics for the crew when using the cupola.
  • Common Communication for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2) Data Converter: Hardware enabling upgrade of software used for the variety of cargo and and crew capsules docking with the ISS
  • Functional Cargo Block Hardware: Fan, battery, and consumable hardware to support scheduled maintenance on-orbit. Crews spend much of their time cleaning and maintaining the ISS.
  • Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) Hardware Replacements: Spare parts including belts, pulleys and a replacement bench cover for the crew exercise equipment. Crew schedule includes significant time devoted to exercise to prevent bone and muscle loss while in orbit.

Groceries

In addition to the standard menu and crew specific food containers, NASA shared the list of crew-requested shelf stable and fresh food included in the cargo:

Garlic, apples, baby carrots, grapefruit, oranges, cherry tomatoes, brie, prosciutto, chorizo, dark chocolate-covered cranberries, genoa salami, hot chocolate, praline pecans, smoked gouda, smoked provolone, summer sausage and cakebites.

Post flight experiments

Cygnus will stay attached for approximately three months when it will be detached from the station and move on to its extended mission.

  • Spacecraft Fire Safety (Saffire): the fourth in a series of studies of how fire behaves in microgravity, intended to help develop procedures for crews to best handle fire emergencies in space.
  • SharkSat: a Ka-Band Software Defined Radio, a pathfinder for technologies with applications in 5G, advanced satellite communications

Northrop Grumman announced in September that the spacecraft would be named for NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the first India-born woman to enter space. Chawla was lost along with her six crewmates in 2003 during mission STS-107 when the Space Shuttle Columbia did not survive its return to Earth.

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