How a stray boat stopped a delivery to the space station

An unmanned Orbital Sciences launch to the International Space Station was scrubbed just 10 minutes before liftoff, thanks to a boat that wandered into the launch safety range.

A private Antares rocket built by Orbital Sciences Corp. stands poised to launch a Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station on Oct. 27, 2014. A stray boat in the launch safety range forced flight controllers to postpone the launch for safety reasons.

A private cargo spaceship was poised to make a gorgeous nighttime liftoff Monday (Oct. 27) visible to millions of people along the United States East Coast. But then a boat got in the way.

The unexpected presence of a boat downrange of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, forced launch controllers to scrub Monday's planned liftoff of Orbital Sciences' unmanned Cygnus spacecraft, which was all set to blast off atop an Antares rocket at 6:45 p.m. EDT (2245 GMT) on a resupply run to the International Space Station.

The nighttime rocket launch is now set for Tuesday (Oct. 28) at 6:22 p.m. EDT (2222 GMT). Weather permitting, the launch could be visible for observers all along the U.S. East Coast, from as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as South Carolina, NASA officials said. [How to See the Nighttime Antares Rocket Launch]

You can watch a webcast of the launch live beginning at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) on Tuesday, courtesy of NASA. 

Mission controllers tried repeatedly to contact the wayward boat that thwarted Monday night's launch attempt, but they could not get the boat to move in time.

"This was strictly a range issue this evening that terminated the count just 10 minutes before the scheduled liftoff time at the end of a 10-minute window," NASA commentator Rob Navias said during a webcast of the attempted launch.

Orbital Sciences executive vice president Frank Culbertson, a former NASA astronaut, congratulated launch team members for their work leading up to the planned liftoff and shrugged off the boat-caused delay.

"That's just spaceflight," Culbertson said, adding that such things happen from time to time.

Cygnus is set to deliver 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms) of food, supplies and scientific experiments to the astronauts aboard the station. Virginia-based Orbital Sciences holds a $1.9 billion deal with NASA to make eight such supply runs and has already completed two of them.

NASA also signed a $1.6 billion contract with California-based SpaceX to fly 12 unmanned cargo missions to the orbiting complex. SpaceX has successfully completed three resupply flights using its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook orGoogle+. Originally published on

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