There is a genuinely rare confluence of events taking place in the early morning sky over Fort Wayne this Saturday (March 26, 2016).
Assuming it lifts off time tonight at 11:05 p.m., an Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship will be approaching the International Space Station just as both are passing over Fort Wayne.
The action begins at around 6:10 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday when the Space Station, currently occupied by the six-person multinational Expedition 47 crew, rises in the western sky. It will peak at a point almost 60 degrees above the horizon one minute later. The station, comprised of nearly a million pounds of hardware, will be extremely bright and easy to spot as it slowly glides across the sky. It will disappear from view in the southeast sky at 6:14 a.m.
It is not rare to see the Space Station in the Fort Wayne sky. In fact, there are great, easy to spot passes all this week. But it is rare to see the ISS flying in tandem with one of the cargo ships that keeps it resupplied with food, water, spare parts and other necessities.
Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, resupply ships like Cygnus have been the station’s lifeblood, essential to keeping it operational as a ground-breaking science laboratory.
Assuming all goes as scheduled, Cygnus and the Space Station will likely be within a few hundred feet of each other when ISS passes through the Fort Wayne sky. Cygnus is supposed to be captured by the station’s robot arm and berthed at 6:40 a.m. EST.
Chances are you will be able to see two dots, one extremely bright and one much less so, between 6:10 a.m. and 6:14 a.m. I watch a lot of these passes and have not seen a tandem overflight like this in more than 5 years.
Watch here for live coverage of tonight’s Cygnus launch. Look out your window for live coverage of its visit to the Fort Wayne sky this weekend.