Orbital ATK's fourth commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station, OA-4, is set for Thursday. The Cygnus spacecraft is to launch atop United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying more than 7,000 pounds of cargo.
The launch window is scheduled to open at 5:50 p.m. EST. The Orbital ATK launch live stream coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. EST.
A little over a year after its third resupply mission for NASA suffered a launch failure, Orbital ATK returns with an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft. The redesigned Cygnus -- along with the additional power supplied by the Atlas V rocket -- is capable of carrying 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of cargo and scientific experiments to the space station.
The spacecraft was named "S.S. Deke Slayton II" in honor of the Mercury astronaut (1924-1993) and founder of Space Services Inc., a rocket developer for smaller commercial payloads, according to his NASA bio. "We are pleased that the enhanced Cygnus that bears his name will be able to provide up to 53 percent more in cargo weight to the International Space Station than our previously flown standard version," Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group, said in a statement.
Cygnus is carrying a Microsoft Hololens as part of the Sidekick project, a partnership between NASA and Microsoft. In addition to scientific experiments, three student-developed small satellites, CubeSats, will fly to the space station as part of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellite mission. Two of the CubeSats were designed by university students and one by primary school students.
This will be the maiden voyage of the enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and the first time Orbital ATK will use ULA's Atlas V rocket for a mission. The company's Antares rocket is being redesigned with a scheduled return for mid-2016.
If successfully launched Thursday, the Cygnus spacecraft will reach the space station Sunday. NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Scott Kelly will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple and berth the spacecraft to the Unity module. Cygnus will be attached to the space station for a month before it becomes a flaming trash receptacle. ISS crew members will fill the craft with 3,000 pounds of garbage which, along with Cygnus, will burn up in the atmosphere, according to NASA.
You can watch the NASA Orbital ATK launch live stream below.