For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, VA – If you have never seen a rocket launch – this could be the one for you. Millions and millions of US East Coast residents could wake up Saturday morning Nov. 2 and enjoy the breakfast time launch of the commercial Antares rocket from the eastern shore of Virginia to the International Space Station (ISS) carrying over 4 tons of research investigations and supplies for NASA.
The weather outlook for blastoff of the private Northrop Grumman Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo freighter on a commercial resupply mission to the ISS for NASA is currently favorable and could make for beautiful viewing and a stunning sky show along a vast stretch of the Atlantic Coast and certain inland areas from New England to the Carolinas – if clear weather persists.
Liftoff of the Antares Cygnus mission on Northrop Grumman’s 12th commercial resupply mission to the space station from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at 9:59 a.m. EDT Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019 from launch pad 0A.
The mid-Atlantic region has the highest population density in the US.
Thus Antares could potentially thrill hordes and hordes of space fans, just as NASA is ramping up America’s return to the Moon with Project Artemis landing the first woman and next man at the lunar south pole.
See the detailed launch visibility map above – weather permitting.
The visibility map indicates when (in seconds) and where to look up in the sky after liftoff.
The numerical values in each colored circle indicate the time (in seconds) after liftoff. This value can be used to determine when the rocket becomes visible within the associated colored region.
Of course the actual ability to see the launch depends on having clear weather conditions at the time of liftoff – which can change on a dime.
NASA’s prelaunch coverage will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning Friday, Nov. 1 with the prelaunch briefings from NASA Wallops.
You can also watch the launch live on NASA TV starting 30 minutes prior to liftoff.
NASA TV coverage of the launch begins at 9:30 a.m.
The backup launch opportunity is Sunday, Nov. 3.
The Cygnus spacecraft, dubbed the SS Alan Bean, is named after the late Apollo and Skylab astronaut who died on May 26, 2018, at the age of 86.
If you want to watch the launch up close consider traveling to the NASA Visitor Center at Wallops.
The Wallops Visitor center opens at 6 a.m. on launch day for public viewing. But arrive early because parking is limited at this excellent location.
Locally some additional locations for catching the launch are Robert Reed Park on Chincoteague Island or Beach Road spanning the area between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, says NASA.
The beach at the Assateague Island National Seashore/Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge will not be open during the launch.
In anticipation of the launch the upgraded commercial Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo freighter from Northrop Grumman rolled out Monday morning Oct 29 about 1 mile from the processing hanger to NASA’s oceanside pad at Wallops Flight Facility.
The Cygnus NG-12 spacecraft is loaded with around 8,200 pounds of research, crew supplies, and hardware – the heaviest ever load launched by Antares from Wallops.
Among the research hardware is an oven to bake the first ‘Cookies in Space’ as well as gear to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment looking back to the origins of the Universe – for the six person multinational crew.
If all goes well with launch on Nov. 2 the Cygnus spacecraft will carry out two days of carefully choreographed orbit raising maneuvers to rendezvous with the space station Monday, Nov. 4 at about 5:45 a.m.
The plan then is for Expedition 61 NASA astronaut Jessica Meir to grapple the SS Alan Bean spacecraft using the station’s 57 foot long Canadian built robotic arm.
Meir will be backed up by NASA astronaut Christina Koch. After Cygnus capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install Cygnus on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.
But before Cygnus can berth the Japanese HTV-8 cargo ship must first depart on Friday, Nov. 2 to provide clearance.
My photo below shows the locations of Cygnus and HTV.
The two stage Antares measures 139 feet (42.5 m) tall and 13 feet (3.9 m) in diameter.
The 14 story tall commercial expendable Antares launch vehicle is launching in the upgraded and more powerful re-engined 230 configuration rocket compared to the original version.
The first stage is powered by two newly built Russian-built NPO Energomash RD-181 engines with independent thrust vectoring and fires for 3 minutes and 35 seconds before separating from the upper stage. They are test fired by Energomash in Russia and shipped to Wallops.
They produce about 860,000 pounds of thrust, roughly 100,000 more thrust than the original Antares 100 configuration. In the past they are throttled down at Max Q to maintain core integrity.
The second stage comprises the Castor 30XL solid rocket motor producing approximately107,000 pounds of thrust. It burns for about 156 seconds.
The prior Cygnus launch on the NG-11 mission was witnessed by the largest crowd ever gathered for an Antares liftoff as the rocket soared in its upgraded 230 configuration at 4:46 p.m. EDT (2046 GMT) Wednesday, April 17 from seaside Launch Pad 0A at the Virginia Space Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
This will be the first mission under Northrop Grumman’s CRS-2 contract with NASA starting this fall of 2019. Under Northrop Grumman’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, the company will flew 11 missions to the ISS.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of the NG-12 mission from onsite at NASA Wallops.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events
Nov 23, 1 PM, Titusville, FL: “50th Anniversary Apollo 12 and NASA Return to the Moon with Project Artemis” at American Space Museum, Titusville, FL. Lecture free. Open to the public.