Press Release

NASA Wallops Preparations on Track for Tonight’s Orbital Sciences Launch to International Space Station

By SpaceRef Editor
October 28, 2014
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NASA Wallops Preparations on Track for Tonight’s Orbital Sciences Launch to International Space Station

Ahead of the third U.S. commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station by Orbital Sciences Corp., NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia continues to enable successful launches from the Eastern Shore. Orbital’s Antares rocket carrying 5,000 pounds of NASA cargo aboard the company’s Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT this evening from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops.

A Monday launch attempt was scrubbed because a boat was inside the range safety zone southwest of the launch pad.

“Wallops is home to NASA’s only owned and operated launch range, providing safety, area clearance, tracking and telemetry, and logistical support to range users like Orbital Sciences,” said Bill Wrobel, Wallops director. “Public safety is our top priority for launch operations and the teams at Wallops have done a tremendous job getting ready to support these launches. But, we also need the public’s help to ensure the safe and successful beginning of these resupply missions to the International Space Station.”

On Monday evening, a sailboat about 26 feet long entered the hazard zone early in the launch count. The hazard area for the launch of Antares is about 1,400 square miles off the coast of Wallops Island along the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Radar aircraft detected the boat and hailed it several times, but there was no response. A spotter plane made multiple passes around the boat at low altitudes using commonly understood signals such as wing waving to establish contact. However, the operator did not respond.

The boat was traveling very slowly at a speed of about four knots and remained in the hazard area at the time of Orbital’s scheduled launch. The presence of the boat exceeded a mandatory safety requirement for launch, scrubbing the launch to Tuesday.

Well-ahead of launch operations, two public notifications, notices to mariners (NOTMARs) and the notification for the establishment of an Army Corps of Engineers Danger Zone, are released. Boats under way in the ocean also are requested to monitor marine band radio channel 16 for safety messages and communication with marine authorities.

Nine hours before the scheduled lift-off time, Wallops’ area clearance personnel are in active communication on the marine band radio with boaters traveling in and near the established hazard area. This early in the countdown, the area clearance officer is actively working to keep the area cleared by contacting boaters about the upcoming launch operation. More complex surveillance of the area begins four hours prior to liftoff with the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Virginia Marine Police and Contract Surveillance Boats, about seven to eight boats actively patrolling the area. Three hours prior to launch, a radar aircraft, spotting aircraft, and helicopter are used to surveil the area.

Among the science cargo Cygnus will transport to the space station are a study to enable the first space-based observations of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere, a multitude of student investigations covering topics such as the effects of microgravity on plant growth and the rates of milk spoilage in space and international research including a study to determine how blood flows from the brain to the heart in the absence of gravity. A launch attempt Tuesday evening will result in Cygnus arriving to the space station Sunday, Nov. 2.

You can find NASA’s Note to Mariners at:

For more information on Orbital’s mission to the International Space Station, visit:


SpaceRef staff editor.