NASA to launch supplies with Antares rocket from Wallops Island on Tuesday

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – If you keep your eyes on the sky Tuesday night, you may catch a glimpse of a NASA rocket. The Antares rocket is heading from Wallops Island to the International Space Station.  “It’s the biggest one we launch, so it always provides a good show for folks to come out and see. It will be carrying supplies to the International Space Station,” said News Chief for Wallops Flight Facility Keith Koehler.

Those supplies will help with research in a few different areas. Scientists will be looking at 3D printing with dust, and studying muscle loss and how slime mold grows. The experiments will be added to the list of studies conducted over that last 20 years of continuous human habitation at the International Space Station. It’s Northrop Grumman’s 16th commercial resupply services mission, according to NASA.

The Cygnus space vessel the rocket is carrying is also equipped with a a thermal protection system (TPS) that researchers at the University of Kentucky are studying. The TPS is designed to protect the spacecraft against heat when it’s falling back to Earth. That’s expected to happen sometime in November of 2021. “The design of an efficient TPS remains one of the most challenging tasks of planetary exploration missions,” says principal investigator Alexandre Martin of the University of Kentucky. “There is clearly a need to provide a low-cost way to quickly and reliably evaluate TPS materials and provide near-orbital flight validation data.”

The launch is slated for just before 6 p.m. Tuesday. Koehler says right now there’s a good chance that everything will go over smoothly. He says the clear weather could allow for the launch to be visible across Delmarva. “Right now everything looks good for launch as far as the vehicle, the range, and the pad. Weather wise, it’s also looking fairly good. We’re looking at about 80% probability of good weather for launch time on Tuesday evening,” said Koehler.

Categories: Local News, Tech, Virginia