Watch Private Cygnus Spacecraft Launch Today

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard, is seen on Pad-0A at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 in Virginia. NASA’s commercial space partner is targeting a Sept. 18 launch for its demonstration cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Update at 3:45 pm ET: The Cygnus cargo capsule successfully lifted off aboard an Antares rocket and later successfully deployed the solar cells that it needs for power, NASA reports. The cargo capsule next heads for a rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday. If it successfully berths at the station, the demonstration flight will deliver about 1,300 pounds (589 kilograms) of food, clothing, and other cargo to the station.

Like it’s swan constellation namesake, the commercial cargo spacecraft Cygnus will take flight in a historic launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 18.

Scheduled to blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility from Virginia’s shoreline at 10:50 am EDT (International times), this will be private firm Orbital Sciences‘ first launch of their Antares commercial rocket carrying their new resupply ship on its maiden voyage to the ISS.

This cosmic delivery run will only be the second by a commercial venture–California-based SpaceX was the first to stock up the orbiting laboratory last year in the post-shuttle era. Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon, Cygnus cargo ship will not return to Earth but instead will be filled with trash and sent into a fiery kamikaze dive into the atmosphere to burn up.

Just like last week’s launch of the LADEE moon mission from the same facility, the Antares liftoff should be visible up and down the eastern coast of the U.S..

Despite it being a daytime launch the bright plume from the two-stage rocket may be witnessed from Maine to North Carolina.  Here are a few artist renderings of what the rocket trajectory will look like from various locations.


This visibility map shows where the Antares/Cygnus launch can be seen over seconds after blastoff- weather permitting. Credit: NASA
This visibility map shows where the Antares/Cygnus launch can be seen seconds after blastoff, weather permitting. Credit: NASA
View of  Sept.18th Antares launch from atop Rockefeller Center, New York City. Credit: Orbital Sciences
View of Sept. 18th Antares launch from atop Rockefeller Center, New York City. Credit: Orbital Sciences
View of Antares/Cygnus launch from Lincoln Memorial. Credit: Orbital Sciences.
View of Antares/Cygnus launch from Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. Credit: Orbital Sciences.

NASA Television will begin their web broadcast of the Antares launch at 10:15 am  EDT on  Sept 18.  Launch window lasts until 11:05 am EDT.

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Meet the Author
Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.