Northrop Crumman, a NASA commercial partner, is scheduled to launch their Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) today.
The Antares rocket will by carrying the Cygnus cargo space craft up to the Internation Space Station (ISS), and the launch is scheduled for 22:45 on Wednesday, 17 April.
The Antares will also be carrying approximately 3 400 kilograms of supplies for the ISS crew, as well as hardware and research, and will mark the rocket’s 11th commercial resupply mission.
Preparing the Antares rocket
Ground crews in Virginia were working all through the night to install the time-sensitive cargo onto the Cygnus ahead of lift-off. The Antares majestically emerged from its horizontal hanger on a self-propelled transporter.
The crew then raised the Antares rocket vertical for final checks and to ensure all connections between the launch pad, the Antares rocket and its transporter and the Cygnus spacecraft were operational.
This is the first time in the Antares rocket’s service history that it’s loaded with time-sensitive cargo. A ‘clean room’ had to be installed and modified to accommodate the late-load procedure.
The time-sensitive cargo will also include 40 live mice. Researchers on the ISS will be studying their immune systems’ response to space flight.
The Antares rocket launch will therefore mark the first time that a rodent research payload will be flown aboard a Cygnus supply ship.
The launch, as well as briefings preceding and following lift-off, will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Watch: Antares NG-11 rocket launch to ISS
The stream will go live at 22:15 South African Standard Time (SAST) on Wednesday 17 April, 30 minutes before lift-off.