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Orbital ATK set to launch eighth Cargo Resupply Mission to the International Space Station

(10 November 2017 - Orbital ATK) Orbital ATK today announced it is set to launch the company’s Antares rocket carrying its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Pending completion of final vehicle testing and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch will take place November 11 with lift-off scheduled for 7:37 a.m. EST from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

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Orbital ATK's Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft are set to launch the company's eighth cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. (courtesy: Orbital ATK)

The mission, designated OA-8, will be Orbital ATK’s eighth cargo delivery mission for NASA. The Antares medium-class rocket will carry its heaviest cargo load to date, approximately 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of vital supplies and scientific equipment that will support the crew aboard the International Space Station. The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous and berth with the station on November 13, 2017.

Orbital ATK names each Cygnus spacecraft in honor of astronauts and individuals who contributed to the United States’ commercial space program. The OA-8 mission honors former NASA astronaut Gene Cernan, who passed away last January. Cernan, a veteran of one Gemini and two Apollo missions, set records for both lunar surface extravehicular activities and longest time in lunar orbit, paving the way for the future of human space exploration.

Upon arrival at the space station, the “S.S. Gene Cernan” Cygnus will be unloaded and utilized for the first time as an extension of the orbiting laboratory for an experiment featuring the SpaceTango facility, TangoLab. TangoLab is a reconfigurable general research facility designed for microgravity research and development. This exercise will demonstrate the ability to expand the station’s capabilities for hosting experiments using the Cygnus Module.

Cygnus will remain docked for approximately one month to allow the astronauts aboard the space station to perform the transfer of the lab to Cygnus and then back to the station where it will remain. Once Cygnus is unberthed, a NanoRacks deployer will release 14 Cubesats, a record number for the spacecraft. Upon completion of its secondary missions, Cygnus will perform a safe, destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Among the cargo is a student experiment sponsored by Orbital ATK in a partnership with Higher Orbits, a Virginia-based non-profit, and its Go For Launch! program. The high school team known as the “Saguaro Snakes” from the Go For Launch! event in Gilbert, Arizona, captured first place for an innovative science experiment that studies the growth of peanut plants in space.

Under the CRS-1 contract with NASA, Orbital ATK will deliver approximately 66,000 pounds (30,000 kilograms) of cargo to the International Space Station. Beginning in 2019, Orbital ATK will carry out a minimum of six initial cargo missions under NASA’s CRS-2 contract. The partnership is cultivating a robust American commercial space industry, freeing NASA to focus on developing the next-generation rocket and spacecraft that will enable humans to conduct deep space exploration missions.

About Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs approximately 13,000 people across the U.S. and in several international locations.