Early risers on the US East Coast might get a bit of a show tomorrow morning: private space company Orbital ATK will launch its Antares rocket with a Cygnus spacecraft at 4:39 AM EDT from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The mission is the company’s ninth flight for NASA, and is headed to the International Space Station, where it will drop off a 7,400 pounds of scientific equipment and supplies when it docks on Thursday, May 24th.
One piece of equipment that the rocket will carry is the Cold Atom Laboratory, which will use magnetic fields and lasers to create clouds of atoms called Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs), cooled to just above absolute zero. On Earth, those BECs are dragged down by gravity, limiting the amount of time they can be observed, but aboard the microgravity environment of the ISS, they can be observed for much longer — up to 10 seconds, and should give scientists some insight into how the particles interact with one another.
Once the Cygnus spacecraft departs the station seven weeks from now, it will release a six CubeSats. The tiny satellites will cary everything from miniature, experimental radar instruments to study precipitation in Earth’s atmosphere to new technologies designed to cut through the growing amount of radio frequency interference around Earth.
The Cygnus will also carry a new communications system called the Common Communication for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2)m for the first time.
If the weather is clear, residents from Massachusetts to South Carolina might be able to see the rocket lift off early tomorrow morning.
Orbital ATK’s last mission to the ISS took place last November, and the company is scheduled to perform another mission later this fall.
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Yesterday, French radio station Europe 1 reported that Paris authorities have opened an investigation against French film director Luc Besson, after an actress told them that he had raped her the night before.
According to the complaint, the actress says that she met Besson on Thursday evening at the Bristol hotel in Paris as the Cannes Film Festival was wrapping up. She describes how she was given a cup of tea and blacked out after drinking it, and awoke realizing that she had been raped. She says that the director left a wad of money for her before departing.
The actress also noted that she had previously been in an intimate relationship with Besson for two years, one that she felt pressured into for “professional reasons.”
In a statement to AFP News Service, Besson’s lawyer says that the director “categorically denies these fantasist accusations,” and that the actress is “someone he knows, towards whom he has never behaved inappropriately.”
The director of films such as Fifth Element, Lucy, and most recently, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Besson has a history of dating younger actresses: he began dating his second wife, Maiwenn Le Besco in 1991 when she was 15 years old (Besson was 32 at the time), and they had a daughter two years later. Le Besco has noted that Besson’s 1994 film Leon: The Professional, was inspired in part by their relationship, and that then 11-year-old star Natalie Portman’s parents demanded numerous changes to the script because of age-inappropriate content.
The accusation against Besson comes on the heels of a wave of complaints from within Hollywood of sexual misconduct from high-powered directors, actors, and producers, starting with executive Harvey Weinstein last year. These revelations caused the downfall of well-known actors such as Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, and others.
This incident came just before actress Asia Argento described Cannes as Weinstein’s previous “hunting ground,” and said that there were people still in the crowd that would be “held accountable for their conduct against women,” and that “we know who you are and we will not allow you to get away with it any longer.”