Busy Sunday on Tap for Space Aficionados: Cygnus, Falcon 9 v1.1 and Proton M

Busy Sunday on Tap for Space Aficionados: Cygnus, Falcon 9 v1.1 and Proton M

Sunday is shaping up to be a busy day in the space business with two significant launches — one U.S., one Russian — and a commercial cargo demonstration on tap.  All are subject to change, of course, but here’s the line-up at the moment. 

Fortunately for the U.S. missions, Sunday is still FY2013 so they will not be affected by the gridlock over FY2014 funding.

Orbital’s Cygnus.  At 7:15 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus spacecraft will make a second try to berth to the International Space Station (ISS).  The first attempt last Sunday, September 22, was aborted because of a data mismatch between Cygnus and ISS, but a software patch has been uploaded and tested and Orbital and NASA are ready to give it another go.  This is Orbital’s demonstration mission as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

  • 3:30 am EDT — Cygnus begins approach to ISS
  • 4:30 am EDT — NASA TV coverage begins
  • 5:10 am EDT — Cygnus will be about 250 meters from ISS
  • 6:12 am EDT — In the Washington, DC area, if the weather cooperates ISS and Cygnus will be visible for four minutes beginning at 6:12 am EDT at 45 degrees elevation travelling from northwest to east northeast (visit NASA’s SpotTheStation website to find out when ISS can be seen elsewhere)
  • 7:15 am EDT — Cygnus to be grappled by ISS astronauts using Canadarm2
  • 9:00 am EDT — Cygnus installed onto ISS docking port (time approximate)

Space X’s Falcon 9 v1.1.  At 12:00 noon EDT (9:00 am local time at the launch site), the window opens for launch of SpaceX’s new version of the Falcon 9 rocket — Falcon 9 v1.1 — from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.  This launch was supposed to take place September 15, but was postponed for additional engine tests.  It is SpaceX’s first launch from Vandenberg and will place a Canadian scientific satellite, Cassiope, and five smaller satellites into orbit.

  • 12:00 noon EDT (9:00 am Pacific) — two hour launch window opens
  • Check SpaceX’s website for live coverage

ILS Proton M.   Russia’s Proton M rocket will make its return-to-flight carrying a commercial communications satellite, SES’s Astra-2E.  This is the first Proton M flight since a catastrophic accident 17 seconds after liftoff in July that destroyed three Russian government GLONASS navigation satellites.  No one was hurt.  International Launch Services (ILS) markets the Proton and confirmed today that the launch is scheduled for Sunday afternoon EDT (early Monday morning at the launch site in Kazakhstan).  This flight also had been scheduled for September 15, but was postponed for technical reasons.


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