You can watch the first-ever 360-degree livestream of a rocket launch on Tuesday (April 18).
Orbital ATK's robotic Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to launch toward the International Space Station (ISS) Tuesday atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. You can watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV, or directly at the space agency's YouTube channel.
Cygnus has flown a number of such resupply runs in the past, but this liftoff will be special, from a viewer's perspective at least: You'll be able to get a pad's-eye view, in 360 degrees.
"To view in 360, use a mouse or move a personal device to look up and down, back and forth, for a 360-degree view around Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida," NASA officials wrote in a statement. "Those who own virtual reality headsets will be able to look around and experience the view as if they were actually standing on the launch pad."
The Cygnus is packed with more than 7,600 lbs. (3,450 kilograms) of scientific gear, hardware and supplies for the ISS crew — so much cargo that the mission will employ an Atlas V rather than Orbital's own Antares booster, which is not quite as powerful. (An Antares is slated to loft the next Cygnus mission, which will lift off this summer.)
If all goes according to plan, the Cygnus — dubbed the S.S. John Glenn, after the first American to orbit the Earth — will chase the ISS down for four days, eventually reaching the orbiting lab on Saturday morning (April 22). It will then be grappled by the station's huge robotic arm and installed on the Unity module.
Both Orbital ATK and SpaceX fly robotic cargo missions to the space station for NASA. SpaceX, which uses its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket, has launched 10 such contracted missions, one of which failed. Tuesday's launch will kick off Orbital's seventh contracted flight. Orbital has suffered one failure as well.