Cygnus cargo launch postponed to mid-April
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Orbital ATK’s OA-7 Cygnus spacecraft will have to wait a little longer before being sent toward the International Space Station. The cargo mission is now targeting a no-earlier-than mid-April launch.
According to a March 28, 2017, Space News report, a NASA official at the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee said the delay will also postpone a spacewalk that was originally planned for April 6.
The OA-7 Cygnus, named S.S. John Glenn, is slated to carry 7,626 pounds (3,459 kilograms) of cargo to resupply the orbiting laboratory. The 21-foot (6.4-meter) long spacecraft will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. After a two-to-four-day rendezvous and subsequent berthing, the freighter will remain at the outpost for about two months.
OA-7 has been postponed multiple times. The first was due to a hydraulic issue on ground support equipment. Then, a couple days later, on March 22, Orbital ATK announced another delay. While testing the ground support equipment from the first postponement, an issue with the booster hydraulic line on the Atlas V rocket was discovered.
The most recent delay to mid-April was required to allow teams to replace components in the booster engine compartment as part of the investigation into the hydraulic leak. A new date has not been set.
The space station is entering a busy period of operations. On April 10, Soyuz MS-02 will be landing with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko.
Remaining at the outpost will be NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will serve is Expedition 51 commander, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
They will be joined 10 days later by the crew launching in Soyuz MS-04 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan: Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Jack Fischer.
Sometime around when these two operations take place is when OA-7 is currently expected to launch. When it does, it will be berthed to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module.
Finally, in mid-May, SpaceX is planning to launch its CRS-11 Dragon capsule. It will be berthed to the Earth-facing port of Harmony.
Of note, CRS-11 will be the first re-flown Dragon capsule. That capsule last flew during the CRS-4 mission in 2014, according to Gunter’s Space Page. Whether it is just the pressure vessel being re-flown or the whole thing is unclear.
Derek Richardson is a student studying mass media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. He is currently the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also writes a blog, called Orbital Velocity, about the space station. His passion for space ignited when he watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on Oct. 29, 1998. He saw his first in-person launch on July 8, 2011 when the space shuttle launched for the final time. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized that his true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.