ULA to Return Cygnus & Deke Slayton to Flight


Image Credit & Copyright: United Launch Alliance (ULA).

LAUNCH ALERT: Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 22:55 UTC (17:55 EST & 14:55 PST) the United Launch Alliance (ULA), utilizing an Atlas V-401 rocket designated (AV-061) will be embarking on their first International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission, by returning the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship (S.S. Deke Slayton II) to flight, as part of Orbital ATK-4 (OA-4 or Orb-4 or CRS-4), from Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida.

This will be the ULA’s 103rd launch, the 60th launch of the Atlas V and the 30th launch of the Atlas V in the 401 configuration.

This will be Orbital ATK’s 4th of 10 contracted ISS resupply missions.

CYGNUS SPACECRAFT = is an expendable, unmanned, pressurized cargo re-supply spacecraft that’s 6.3 m (21 ft.) in length by 3.07 m (10.1 ft.) in diameter. This iteration of Cygnus boasts a great increase in payload capacity (roughly 7,500 lbs. or 3,500 kg) due to the increased size of the ship with its stretched or “enhanced” Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) as well as lighter weight components such as the ATK Ultraflex solar arrays.

CYGNUS Fact Sheet: https://www.orbitalatk.com/space-systems/human-space-advanced-systems/commercial-resupply-services/docs/FS006_08_OA_5449%20Cygnus.pdf

After free-drift the spacecraft will rendezvous with the ISS in the early hours of December 6 where it will be grappled via the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Unity Module (aka “Node-1) where it will remain before being loaded with waste and released to disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere.


Deke Slayton: As with every Cygnus flight, it’s been given a name to honor someone in the industry. This missions (OA-4 or Orb-4 or CRS-4) Cygnus vehicle has been designated the S.S. Deke Slayton II. The first attempt at using Deke (S.S. Deke Slayton) was lost in the Orb-3/Antares failure in October of 2014. Donald Kent Slayton was a bomber pilot in WWII, flying 63 combat missions over Europe and Japan. Later he would receive his Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Minnesota and go on to became a Boeing engineer before he was recalled to service. He would later become a test pilot at Edwards AFB and then go on to join the illustrious Mercury 7; the first ever U.S. astronaut class.

During this time he would be diagnosed with a heart condition which kept him from flying. In fact, he was the only member of Mercury 7 that did not fly during Project Mercury. Undeterred, he became the Coordinator of Astronaut Activities which later became the Chief of the Astronaut Office where he had a major role in selecting Gemini and Apollo astronauts.

In 1972 his flight status was fully restored and in 1975 flew as a one of two U.S. astronauts on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. After ASTP (which would be his only spaceflight) he continued to work as a pioneer in the industry as head of the space shuttle approach and landing tests and was also responsible for the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) 747’s. After retirement, he went to work for Space Services Inc. out of Houston which specialized in developing rockets to carry commercial payloads.

The Atlas-5 (V) 400 Series Rocket is a two-stage rocket that depending on the size of the fairing used stands between 57.3 m (188 ft.) and 59.1 m (194 ft.) with a diameter of 12.5ft (3.81m) and consists of an Atlas Common Core Booster with a Russian RD-180 engine and first stage with a United States RL-10 Centaur upper stage built by AeroJet-Rocketdyne. The vehicle is available in 4 different configurations which are built specifically for each individual mission. Its launch sites are Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Launch Complex-41 (LC-41) or Vandenberg Air Force Base, Launch Complex-3 (LC-3). Performance to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) ranges from 10,470 lb. to 16,970 lb. Performance to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) ranges from 20,650 lb. to 33,360 lb.


4 = 4.2 Meter fairing (2-shell).

0 = 0 External solid rocket boosters.

1 = 1 Centaur second stage engine.

MAIN PAYLOAD FAIRING (PLF): The Main Payload Fairing for the Atlas-V-401 is a two-shell, 4 m (13.8 ft.) diameter fairing and is used to protect the spacecraft & Centaur during its ascent through atmospheric turbulence and into space. Once safely out of Earth’s atmosphere (Or at least most of it), the fairing is pyrotechnically jettisoned via a debris-free actuating system.

CENTAUR UPPER STAGE: The Centaur Upper stage is 3.1 m (10 ft.) in diameter and 12.7 m (41.6 ft.) in length. It consists of a single Cryogenic RL-10A-4-2 (RL-10) Aerojet Rocketdyne Engine that provides 22,300 lb. of thrust and utilizes liquid hydrogen (LH2) for propellant and liquid oxygen (LOX) as an oxidizer with a burn time of up to 740 seconds to include multiple engine firings. There are also four 27-N (Newton) thrusters and eight 40-N (Newton) thrusters used for attitude control. Both utilize hydrazine as propellant. The Centaur Forward Adapter (CFA) provides structural mountings for vehicle electronics within the spacecraft.

SOLID ROCKET BOOSTERS (SRB’s): Have a diameter of 158 cm (62.2 in) and a length of 20 m (65.6 ft.). The total number of SRB’s utilized is dependent on the individual mission and vary from none at all to 5. They are jettisoned after approximately a minute and a half of flight.

COMMON CORE BOOSTER (CCB) (First-Stage): The American Atlas-V Common Booster Core is 32.46 m (106.5 ft.) in length by 3.8 m (12.5 ft.) in diameter and is powered by a single two-chamber Russian RD-180 engine that utilizes Rocket Propellant-1 (RP-1 or highly purified kerosene) as propellant and Liquid Oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer. It provides 860,300 lb. of thrust at sea level and can burn for 253 seconds. The RD-180 engine is modeled after the 4-chanber RD-170 engines used by the Zenit rocket family.


Launch webcast begins at 16:30 EST (21:30 UTC).

Rendezvous and grapple webcast begins Dec 6, at 04:00 EST (09:00 UTC).

Berthing webcast begins Dec 6, at 07:00 EST (12:00 UTC).

NASA TV: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

NASA TV Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

ULA Webcast: http://www.ulalaunch.com/webcast.aspx


Orbital ATK OA-4 Mission Page: https://www.orbitalatk.com/news-room/feature-stories/OA4-Mission-Page/default.aspx

ULA OA-4 Mission Page: http://www.ulalaunch.com/atlas-v-to-launch-oa4.aspx?title=Atlas+V+to+Launch+OA-4+Mission+for+Orbital+ATK+and+NASA&Category=1

ULA OA-4 Mission Booklet: http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Mission_Booklets/AV/av_oa4_mob.pdf?bcsi_scan_4982677c0fd56eb5=o3MVPLPmISOhXuSN5wLO/Rfr8VoNAAAAJFqgRg==&bcsi_scan_filename=av_oa4_mob.pdf

Orbital ATK CRS Fact Sheet: https://www.orbitalatk.com/space-systems/human-space-advanced-systems/commercial-resupply-services/docs/FS003_08_OA_5033_CRS.pdf


ULA homepage: http://www.ulalaunch.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ulalaunch

Twitter for ULA CEO Tory Bruno: https://twitter.com/torybruno

Instagram: http://instagram.com/ulalaunch

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ulalaunch

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/UnitedLaunchAlliance


Orbital ATK homepage: https://www.orbitalatk.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OrbitalATK

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OrbitalATK/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/orbital_atk/


Atlas V rocket: http://www.ulalaunch.com/Products_AtlasV.aspx

Atlas V Users Guide: http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/AtlasVUsersGuide2010.pdf

Atlas V 400 Series Cutaway: http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Atlas400_Cutaway.pdf

Atlas V 500 Series Cutaway: http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Atlas500_Cutaway.pdf

Lockheed Martin Atlas V: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/atlas.html


National Reconnaissance Office (NRO): http://www.nro.gov/

Patrick AFB (45th Space Wing) (Cape Canaveral): http://www.patrick.af.mil/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/45thSpaceWing

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/45thSpaceWing

5th Space Launch Squadron (5th SLS):

Vandenberg AFB (30th Space Wing): http://www.vandenberg.af.mil/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/30thSpaceWing

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/30thSpaceWing

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/30SWVandenberg

4th Space Launch Squadron (4th SLS):

Air Force Space Command: http://www.afspc.af.mil/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AFSpace

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AirForceSpaceCommand

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC339eVx3dEGpH6tFRZt-oDg

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/airforcespacecommand/

Peterson AFB (21st Space Wing): http://www.peterson.af.mil/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PeteAFB


Aerojet-Rocketdyne Homepage: http://www.rocket.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AerojetRdyne

Facebook: http://facebook.com/AerojetRdyne

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5 Responses to ULA to Return Cygnus & Deke Slayton to Flight

  1. lexacd says:

    Reblogged this on LexaLovesFUNFASHIONFOOD and commented:
    Re blog- Wow so much info… There is a lot going on … from Earth to the Space Station!

  2. John Jaeger says:

    Is using the Russian RD-180 engine a good idea? wc

    • AstroDan77 says:

      Short term, yes. In my opinion it’s been a “bulletproof” workhorse engine for the Atlas V. That being said, as far as national security and being able to continue to carry out launches should the two nations bickering, escalates, we should be self-sufficient. But physically is the engine a good idea, yes; politically, no.

      • wc says:

        Are you saying the Russian engine is better then another engine? Why not put this out to bid and see who can do a better job on USA soil? If there is a need to use the Russian rocket engine then allow them to take there payload to Russia and use what ever engine they have or want to use. This seems to me like a better idea. wc

      • AstroDan77 says:

        Oh they did and are! The Blue Origin BE4 engine will replace the RD-180 and will be the main engine for the new ULA Vulcan rocket. At the time, buying bulk RD-180 engines was a no-brainer. Today, not so much.

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