This morning, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus module successfully linked up with the International Space Station (ISS) putting to end a weeks Odyssey in Space travel. Here’s how it started:
Recently, Robin Seemangal, who covers the outer space beat at the New York Observer, invited Bold to cover the ATK Orbital Cygnus launch.
Like most Americans, I’ve always dreamed about going to space and space travel. Also, I’d never been to NASA before – so this was sort of a no brainer.
So, as you can imagine, I said yes almost immediately. There’s nothing more American than a NASA launch.
This mission is interesting for a number of reasons – aside from providing a 55-day resupply to the ISS, NASA will be firing up a 3D printer in Space and testing fire in microgravity (I imagine this as scientific planning for space firefighting for some of the larger projects NASA has planned for 2018 and beyond).
Also, while this launch doesn’t compare to some of the Monster Saturn Rocket engines that launched the Apollo program, the Altas rocket is nothing to shake your head at. Orbital ATK did some offline retrofitting to fit the Atlas to the Cygnus module, which contains 8,000 pounds of supplies, air and scientific experiments.
The Cygnus: named in honor of fallen shuttle astronaut Col. Rick Husband. Image Courtesy of NASA and Orbital ATK
The launch is part of NASA’s private/public partnership with ULA and Orbital ATK, which is making a comeback from a catastrophic launch failure last year. Following a successful launch last fall and the success this week, we can officially say Orbital ATK is back on track.
This morning, NASA CASIS’s Technology Lead Jennifer W. Lopez noted that “For researchers, students, and small medium-sized enterprises to Fortune 100 companies, the International Space Station is opening new opportunities for low earth orbit commercialization. The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft (the company’s fifth operational cargo resupply mission OA-6) is making space experimentation happen with the historic launch of the new in-space Additive Manufacturing Facility from Made In Space. We’re eager to conduct the experimentation and now the hard work begins.”
The Fire in Microgravity and Meteor Experiment (links provide detailed video of the experiments) are an interesting scientific look at the future of space habitation and potentially space firefighting, while 3D-printing experiments in space will give us a look at the potential of printing entire craft or habitats while in orbit.
The 3D printer is exciting for another reason: it’s going to be one YOU can use. Made in Space is allowing people to buy time on the printer to print projects in space. This is something that should get the 3D printing and MAKE community at least a little bit excited.
The Made is Space Microgravity Printer. Image Source: Made in Space
Getting to NASA Kennedy
Attending a NASA launch as press is a unique experience. There’s a mix of domestic, international and blogger journalists, with slightly different procedures for each to get there. Security is tight, and the NASA Kennedy campus is massive. It spans the breadth of Merritt Island, about two hours from the Orlando Airport.
While visiting NASA Kennedy could be a day trip – planning to cover a launch for media is an entirely different animal. There aren’t any hotels within range of the Merritt Island complex, so your initial options are to stay in Cocoa Beach or Orlando – both anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half away. That’s quite a bit of driving when the launch wraps up at 2 – 3 a.m.
Presented with this conundrum, I opted for an AirBNB in Titusville, about 30 minutes from NASA. That’s where the adventure began.
I picked an AirBNB hosted by a guy named Ozzie (as I thought it was a little comedic to have two Ozes together). Unbeknownst to me, this Ozzie happened to be Ozzie Osband, an old school phone phreaker who’s been simulcasting the launches on HAM radio, from Space View Park, for the past decade or so. Space View is across the water from NASA Kennedy on Merritt Island and is the best spot outside of NASA to view launches.
Ozzie Osband and his HAM Radio Setup in Space View Park
To add to the Americana of all of this, the AirBNB is in a SEARS house–a house for order out of the SEARS catalog back in the early part of the 20th century. So if you’re ever heading to NASA, give his place a try. It’s spartan as far as accommodations go, but it’s close and Ozzie is a great host.
The Mercury Mission Monument in Space View Park
Ozzie’s Rocket Hobo Patch
Once I checked in, I headed over to NASA and grabbed my press credentials. The next stop was the press area where you get to see the difference between mission-affiliated folks, press and everyone else.
Press have several other options – as explained to me by NASA Docent Kate Perez – there are press towers that give you a decent view of the launch – but the launches tend to arc away from you and the press site, which is several miles away but puts you directly across from the launch, which arcs over your head and allows you a great opportunity to collect content.
@kateperez, our NASA Docent
I opted for the press site, to which we were bused on military-style buses with the NASA logo brightly emblazoned their sides.
On the way to the launch, I had the pleasure of meeting the space blogger set, namely Amy Lynn, Rachel O’Brien, Kristin Fowler, Space.com’s Sarah Lewin and Thaddeus Cesari. What’s interesting about the blogger set is that they’re space super fans making childhood dreams a reality while covering the next generation of NASA missions. These folks and new and emerging outlets like We Report Space are covering Spaceflight in new was on new mediums. This allows a far wider audience to learn and dream about space.
The launch took place at approximately 11:06 PM EST and was a massive success. The Cygnus module rendezvoused with the ISS at 6:51 AM and was linked up by 10:51 AM.
Mr. Sultan is a Big Data and Counterterrorism Strategist who has worked with U.S. PeaceTech Lab, The Economist, and other corporate and government clients over the past decade. He is also a conservative Muslim pundit who is actively working to build interfaith dialogue and prevent radicalization. He has previously been in the top 30 of Top Conservatives on Twitter and is continually searching for the most perfect hamburger in America.