Editor’s note: Yesterday’s planned launch was scrubbed due to poor weather. NASA has scheduled a second try today, between 5:30 and 6:00 PM, ET, though weather continues to be a problem. TIME will carry the launch attempt live.
Space flight had a very bad day on October 28, 2014. That was the day an Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus spacecraft—both built by Virginia-based Orbital Sciences—blew up just seconds after leaving the pad at the Wallops Island Flight Facility.
No astronauts were aboard, which was a very good thing; but thousands of pounds of equipment and supplies, bound for the International Space Station were—which was a very bad thing. Orbital Sciences has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to make such unmanned cargo runs (SpaceX, Elon Musk’s California-based company, has a similar contract). While Orbital has made successful runs to the station before, exploding on the pad even once is no way to keep the customer happy.
At 6:10 PM (ET) on December 3—weather permitting—the company will try to climb back into the game, launching another Cygnus to the station, and TIME will stream it live here. The cargo this time includes a safety jetpack astronauts wear during spacewalks, multiple experiments on bacteria and other microorganisms that will be conducted in the space station’s labs, a micro-satellite deployer and more.
The cause of the original explosion has been traced to a faulty turbo pump in one of the first-stage engines, but to play it safe until the problem can be fully rectified, Orbital Sciences will launch its Cygnus aboard a reliable Atlas V rocket, built by United Launch Alliance. All launches are dramatic and all launches are suspenseful. This one, given the history and the stakes, will be more so.
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