Already delayed several times, the launch of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket from Wallops Flight Facility, VA was pushed back again today due to the expected passage of a powerful hurricane over a critical downrange tracking asset. Hurricane Gonzalo is forecsat to make a direct hit on the Atlantic island of Bermuda in the next few days and that is delaying preparations for the Orb-3 launch of a Cygnus resupply craft to the International Space Station.

“The Wallops range relies on the Bermuda downrange assets to track and maintain data communications with the Antares rocket during flight and ultimately to ensure public safety during launch operations,” said Steven Kremer, Chief of the Wallops Range and Mission Management Office.

Wednesday evening, Orbital Sciences released the following information via the web and provided more details of the nature of the latest slip in the Antares / Orb-3 launch schedule.

“Due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Gonzalo on the island of Bermuda, where an essential tracking site used to ensure public safety during Antares launches is located, the previously announced ‘no earlier than’ (NET) launch date of October 24 for the Orb-3 CRS mission to the International Space Station for NASA is no longer feasible.”

“Once the hurricane has passed Bermuda, a team from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Range will return to the tracking site to assess the situation and begin the process of re-enabling the site’s functionality to support the launch.”

“Today, Orbital and NASA together established a NET October 27 for the launch of the Orb-3 mission from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops. However, depending on the impact of the storm on Bermuda’s essential infrastructure systems such as transportation, power and communications, the launch date could be moved later. The launch schedule has been established in order to build flexibility into the overall mission schedule.”

“For an October 27 launch, lift-off time of the Antares rocket is targeted for 6:44 p.m. (EDT). The rendezvous and berthing of Cygnus with the ISS remains on November 2, with grapple of the spacecraft by the station’s robotic arm at approximately 4:58 a.m. (EST).”


What do you think?