Busy time begins for United Launch Alliance and Orbital ATK service teams. Atlas V rocket, designated as launch vehicle for upcoming mission of Cygnus cargo spacecraft soon will arrive at Cape. Yesterday, on February 5, 2017, special ship delivered rocket to Port Canaveral.
After week long journey, rocket was finally delivered in special container carefully secured onboard of The Mariner ship operated by Foss Maritime company. Travel started at Decatur in Alabama, 1570 km north west from Cape, where United Launch Alliance has its production facility. Delivering rocket by ship is much slower comparing to other method used by ULA – Antonov An-225 guaranteed delivering rocket within same day, but The Mariner, modified to transport larger Atlas V instead Delta 4 (which for it was originally designed) also performs flawlessly. It is able to travel with average speed of 19 km/h on waters of Tennessee, Ohio and Mississippi rivers, without risk of shock which could destroy fragile systems of the booster.
Rocket will be placed on wheeled platforms towed by trucks and delivered to Cape Canaveral today. Next interstage and Centaur upper stage will be installed. Cygnus will be attached in the end, only one week before planned for 20th March 2017 launch. Launch is planned exactly for the beginning of lasting 30 minutes launch window starting at 02:56 UTC.