Science & Technology

It’s a first! Atlas 5 rocket sends Cygnus cargo ship (with HoloLens) to space station

After ready out Florida’s climate for 3 days, United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket lofted provides to the Worldwide Space Station immediately for the primary time ever.

The Atlas rose from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Power Station at 4:44 p.m. ET (1:44 p.m. PT), sending Orbital ATK’s uncrewed Cygnus crew capsule into orbit. The space station’s commander, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, watched the launch from orbit.

Among the many record-setting 7,700 kilos’ value of provides, experiments and {hardware} on board are two of Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality headsets. As soon as they arrive, the station’s astronauts will strive them out as wearable aids for in-space operations.

Caught one thing good on the horizon. #Cygnus at #sunset on its approach to @space_station! #YearInSpace pic.twitter.com/D3EVQUhxR6

— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) December 6, 2015

The headsets and different provides have been supposed to be despatched up on a SpaceX resupply mission in June – however that mission failed when a defective assist strut broke unfastened on the Falcon 9 rocket, inflicting a catastrophic breakup.

That was the second massive setback for NASA’s business resupply pipeline. In October 2014, a Cygnus cargo was misplaced when Orbital’s Antares rocket failed due to flaws in one among its Russian-made engines.

To deal with that engine flaw, Orbital ATK had to retool its propulsion system for the Antares. And to sustain with NASA’s deliberate resupply schedule, the corporate had to purchase a couple of Atlas 5 launches from United Launch Alliance. That’s the explanation for the rocket’s debut immediately as a launch car for space station resupply.

Mission success! #AtlasV Efficiently Launches #OA4 to the Space Station! #Cygnus https://t.co/HyBvr3GdQG pic.twitter.com/atbT9wZeta

— ULA (@ulalaunch) December 6, 2015

“It’s nice to be again in space and have Cygnus up there,” Frank Culbertson, president of Obital ATK’s Space Programs Group, instructed reporters afterward.

Like Orbital ATK’s Antares, ULA’s Atlas makes use of Russian engines, however it’s confirmed to be a dependable rocket for a huge number of missions – most not too long ago to put an advanced GPS satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Power. Thanks to the capacities of the rocket and a super-sized Cygnus capsule, that is the heaviest Atlas 5 payload ever put into orbit, and the most important U.S. cargo cargo to the space station for the reason that space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

Atlas rockets are slated to ship Boeing’s CRS-100 Starliner space taxi to the space station with astronauts aboard, beginning as early as 2017. SpaceX, in the meantime, plans to use the Falcon 9 and an upgraded model of its Dragon capsule to carry astronauts in a related time-frame.

This week’s launch confronted a couple of postponements due to climate: On Thursday, rain clouds pressured a scrub. On Friday and Saturday, the winds have been too blustery. However immediately, the Atlas 5 carried the Cygnus by means of cloudy skies and into space ultimately.

This Cygnus capsule has been named the SS Deke Slayton II, in honor of the late Mercury (and Apollo-Soyuz) astronaut. (Deke Slayton I used to be the capsule destroyed final yr.) It’s due to attain the station for grappling and berthing on Wednesday. Over the weeks that comply with, the station’s crew will unload a big selection of cargo.

The HoloLens headsets are a part of an experiment referred to as Mission Sidekick: Finally, NASA might use the glorified goggles to assist floor operators see what astronauts are seeing as they go about their duties. In augmented-reality mode, wearers can be ready to see computer-generated holographic photographs superimposed on their area of view as a coaching help.

Different payloads embody a jetpack that astronauts can put on as a security help throughout spacewalks, an experiment that can check flame retardants and fire-resistant supplies to be used in space, a new life-science lab and greater than a dozen CubeSats for deployment, plus air provide tanks, meals and private objects for the crew.

Due to the launch failures of the previous 14 months, the station’s meals stockpile had dwindled from NASA’s beneficial six-month provide to simply a couple of months’ value of reserves. Cygnus’ supply will assist – however it may take so long as a yr to replenish the stockpile absolutely.

Seven books for youths have been flown up as properly, together with two “Mousetronaut” (*5*) written by retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Mark’s twin brother, Scott, is greater than midway by means of a yearlong tour of obligation on the space station – and he might properly learn at the very least one of many books to youngsters on Earth as a part of a challenge referred to as “Story Time From Space.”

I do not know what I anticipate extra, #Mousetronaut or the brand new #StarWars film. https://t.co/sSXhbprQfL

— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) December 5, 2015

Cygnus’ launch is just the start of a busy few weeks on the space station: Three crew members are due to journey a Russian Soyuz space taxi again down to Earth on Dec. 11, and three contemporary spacefliers are scheduled for liftoff from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 15.

Lower than a week later, on Dec. 21, Russia will ship up a robotic Progress cargo craft. In January, SpaceX is ready to launch an uncrewed Dragon capsule to the station for the primary time since June’s failure.

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