Picture of the Day: Cygnus Mass Simulator separates from Orbital’s Antares rocket


The Cygnus mass simulator separates from the Antares rocket on its inaugural flight on April 21, 2013. Image was taken by a camera onboard the rocket. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation.

The Cygnus mass simulator separates from the Antares rocket on its inaugural flight on April 21, 2013. Image was taken by a camera onboard the rocket. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation.

This image almost looks like an artist’s concept, but is an actual photo taken by a camera on board Orbital Science’s Antares rocket showing the Cygnus mass simulator shortly after separation from the rocket’s upper stage.

Antares launched on April 21 for its first test flight – dubbed the A-One mission. The goal of the flight was to test the fully integrated Antares rocket and boost a simulated version of the Cygnus cargo carrier into a target orbit of 250 x 300 kilometers and inclined 51.6 degrees.

Antares also sent a trio of off-the-shelf-smartphone “PhoneSats” to orbit. The three picture-taking satellites are named Alexander, Graham and Bell and are some of the lowest-cost satellites ever flown in space.

Orbital says that both the mass simulator and the upper stage are expected to stay in orbit for several months before their orbits degrade, causing them to re-enter and burn up in the atmosphere.

A test flight of an actual Cygnus capsule is expected later this year, and is currently scheduled for June 2013.

Source: Orbital Science Corporation

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