Antares/Cygnus launch slips a day

Antares on pad

An Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft is raised into position on the launch pad in Virginia on Friday. (credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.)

While many have been keeping a close eye on SpaceX’s upcoming Falcon 9 v1.1 launch, it’s not the only significant impending commercial launch. On the opposite coast from Vandenberg, Orbital Sciences Corporation is getting ready for the second launch of its Antares rocket from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), carrying its first Cygnus cargo spacecraft. The mission is the final milestone in Orbital’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement from NASA, and success will allow the company to being commercial cargo missions to the ISS as soon as December.

The launch was scheduled for Tuesday, but a minor problem has slipped the launch a day. Orbital said Saturday morning that a combination of a delayed rollout of the Antares to its launch pad on Friday (because of weather) and the discovery of a communications problem between the rocket’s computer and ground equipment would push the launch to Wednesday. That communications problem has been traced to a faulty cable between the rocket and ground equipment that Orbital is replacing. Launch is scheduled for a window of 10:50-11:05 am EDT Wednesday. Current forecasts call for partly cloudy skies and light winds at MARS on Wednesday.

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