Islanders who were up before the dawn caught an
incredible show in the night sky, courtesy of a rocket launch that
occurred on Monday morning off of Wallops Island, Virginia.
Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft lifted off
aboard the company’s Antares rocket at 4:44:06 a.m. from Virginia
Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight
Facility, which is located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
The International Space Station-bound Cygnus is
loaded with about 7,400 pounds of supplies and payloads, including
critical materials that are needed to directly support dozens of the
more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur
during the space station’s Expeditions 55 and 56.
The launch led to the sudden formation of a swirl
of skinny, comet-like clouds, causing residents all along the Atlantic
coastline to wonder about the impromptu arrival of the unusual cloud
formations, which had dissipated by sunrise.
“From what we understand, it was very visible in
the [Cape] Hatteras area,” said Keith Koehler, News Chief at NASA’s
Wallops Flight Facility. “It would have been visible in in Hatteras
about one minute after the launch.”
“We estimated that you would be able to see it
from Connecticut to South Carolina, depending on the weather where you
are,” he added. “A lot of the visibility is dependent on the
atmosphere, and in the [Cape Hatteras] area especially, there were
clear skies and you could see it well.”
After Monday’s successful launch, the cargo ship
will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Thursday, May
24. Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will grapple the
spacecraft at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT, backed by Ricky Arnold, and
Drew Feustel will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach. They will
use the space station’s robotic Canadarm2 to take hold of the Cygnus,
dubbed the S.S. James “J.R.” Thompson.
After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will
command the robotic arm to rotate and install Cygnus onto the station’s
Unity module. It is scheduled to eventually depart the space station in
Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will
air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 3:45 a.m.
Thursday, May 24. Installation coverage is set to begin at 7:30 a.m.