On Thursday Russia will launch the crewed Soyuz MS-04 to to the International Space Station, carrying NASA astronaut Jack Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin. After troubleshooting the hydraulic glitch with ground support tools and then the next malfunction with a hydraulic booster line, the engineers of the Orbital ATK are gearing up to set out the spacecraft atop an Atlas V rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). Orbital has also experienced a failed mission.
The mission was flown for Orbital ATK under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract and the payload will deliver supplies, equipment and experiments to astronauts aboard the ISS.
Orbital ATK previously bought two Atlas V rides to the space station to fill a gap while Antares was retrofitted with new engines.
"The more research we can carry, the more they can do their job and the more they can show the utility of the International Space Station".
The launch is scheduled for a 30-minute window that starts at 11:11 a.m. ET.
By switching to the Atlas, Orbital was able to add about 660 extra pounds to the Cygnus capsule, according to Frank Culbertson, a former astronaut and president of the space subsystems group for Orbital ATK.
The next Cygnus flight, OA-8E, is planned for October 2017. Its cargo includes a greenhouse that the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is testing to grow food for astronauts on long missions.
The capsule also is carrying 38 shoebox-size satellites called cubesats, four of which will remain on board the spacecraft and be deployed after it departs the station in July. John Glenn became the first USA astronaut to orbit the Earth after being launched on a heritage Atlas LV-3B rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1962. The Florida skies, which were blue with puffs of clouds, presented no problems for the launch, which had an estimated 90 percent chance of acceptable conditions.
Launch time is set for 07:13 UTC (03:13 EDT), with docking taking place six hours later due to using the abbreviated rendezvous trajectory to the ISS.
And for the first time, cameras will provide live 360-degree video of a rocket heading toward space.
Once attached and leak checks between the hatches of the station and spacecraft are conducted, the crew will open the hatch and begin unloading the cargo and experiments.