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  • Antares Cygnus Demonstration Launch

    Outside the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) building at NASA Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, VA.

    This week was a great one for all sorts of aerospace milestones, including two launches. I had the opportunity to attend the Antares Cygnus COTS demonstration launch yesterday and the pre-launch events on September 17.

    As some may remember, I had the opportunity to see the awesome collaboration between Orbital Sciences and NASA a few months ago at the Pegasus/IRIS launch. Needless to say, I am a huge supporter of the NASA and Orbital team.

    Observing the assembly of the next Antares rocket inside the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF).

    Kicking off the pre-launch festivities, the media was able to tour the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) to observe the next Antares rocket being assembled. This was a unique experience and I really enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes aspect of the launch.

    Workers at Orbital Sciences with parts of the next Antares rocket and ATK's CASTOR 30-A motor.

    The media also got to see ATK's CASTOR 30-A motor, which was impressive!

    Next, we were taken out to the pad on Wallops Island where we were able to see Antares and Cygnus (above).

    NASA's Josh Byerly during the pre-launch mission briefing.

    The day concluded with a mission and weather briefing hosted by Josh Byerly of NASA and several wonderful presentations by Orbital Sciences, Dutch Space, and others who aided in the development of Antares and Cygnus.

    Antares and Cygnus launched at 10:58am EST the next day into an incredible blanket of low clouds and up towards the sun (above).

    My favorite image I took from the launch (above), which features a flock of birds fleeing as Antares climbs into the sky.

    You may view my full set of images from both days on Flickr here.

    Additional Information:

    Cygnus will be berthing with the International Space Station on September 22 around 7:25am. You may follow the mission here.

    For more information on the COTS Demo mission, you may visit Orbital Sciences' website here.

    Congratulations and many thanks to Orbital Sciences, NASA, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), ATK, Dutch Space, and others involved in this important and historic mission!

    Bonus:

    I also stopped by the Chincoteague Community Center where they have a full-scale model of the Cygnus capsule on display outside. Cygnus is much bigger than I thought!

  • Launching NASA's IRIS

    This past Tuesday and Thursday, I had the opportunity to witness the product of some great collaboration at Vandenberg Air Force Base. IRIS, which stands for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, is NASA's latest mission aimed at exploring our sun.

    Left to right, top to bottom: Bryan Baldwin (Orbital Sciences), Geoffrey Yoder (NASA HQ), Alan Title (Lockheed Martin), and Dr. S. Pete Worden (NASA Ames)

    Tuesday was purely a day for the press, starting off with pre-launch briefings with some of the great people involved in the mission from NASA, Orbital Sciences, and Lockheed Martin. It was a great opportunity to really get a grasp for the importance of this mission. By far the best part of the day was getting escorted out to the runway to see Orbital Sciences' L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft with the Pegasus XL rocket that housed IRIS. We were also able to tour the interior of the aircraft.

    The L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft with the Pegasus XL rocket fitted beneath.

    Stargazer and Pegasus preparing for takeoff.

    After being delayed a day due to a power outage at Vandenberg, the launch resumed on Thursday. I was fortunate enough to be on the flightline for the takeoff of the F-18 chase plane and Stargazer. It was a beautiful early evening with beautiful light as the pair took off and headed out over the ocean where Pegasus was then launched.

    The L-1011 aircraft with the F-18 chase plane taxiing just before takeoff.

    The L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft taking off at Vandenberg Air Force Base.


    You can follow the IRIS mission and view footage from the launch here.