WALLOPS ISLAND, VA (Orbital PR) — While all eyes have been on Antares in the recent weeks, our Cygnus spacecraft has achieved many significant firsts as it prepares for its maiden voyage to the International Space Station. After initial cargo installation at Wallops Flight Facility building H-100 and the first-time mating of the Cygnus Service and Cargo Modules, Cygnus completed its next milestone by completing its Launch-Site Integrated Systems Test and its transfer from the Wallops Main Base to the Wallops Fueling Facility, on Wallops Island, just north of the Antares launch site.
For the transfer, the Cygnus was loaded into the Cygnus Vertical Carrier (CVC). Because Cygnus was using the main road through the town of Atlantic, Virginia, the transfer was conducted at midnight, when road traffic would be minimal. Local residents did come out to watch Cygnus’ historic trip, which gave a festive air to a technical activity. Total travel time was a little less than 3 hours, with speeds averaging between five and seven miles per hour. Cygnus was delivered to the hypergolic fueling facility at building V-55, early on the morning of April 13th, where preparations immediately began for the fueling.
Because Cygnus uses hypergolic propellants, Orbital loads the fuel on one day, and then the oxidizer several days later. Since both fuel an oxidizer are poisonous, our Orbital personnel must wear special personal protective equipment while working with the propellants in the event of a leak in the facility. In the following pictures, Orbital personnel are “suited up” in SCAPE suits for the fuel loading. SCAPE stands for “Self-Contained Atmospheric Protective Ensemble,” and the suits look very much like an astronaut’s space suit. Fueling is monitored by engineering and safety personnel in building V-50, located nearby to V-55. Personnel in V-50 used a series of closed circuit TV cameras to monitor activities during the propellant loading process. Fuel loading occurred on April 15th, with oxidizer loading occurring on April 19th. Now fully fueled, Cygnus will be returned to the CVC for transfer from V-55 to the Horizontal Integration Facility, where it will wait for integration onto the Antares for the COTS Demonstration mission to the space station.