Because of SpaceX Launch Delay, Two Ships Will Pass in the Night

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Flickr / Marshal Banana

Due to lightning risks, SpaceX canceled its Dragon spacecraft launch on Thursday and postponed it to June 3 at 5:07 p.m. Eastern. The delay is a bit of a drag, but has a perk: Two NASA provider cargo ships will switch places at the International Space Station (ISS), with one flying up as the other flies out. They will pass each other in the night, in a moment that will likely be as beautiful as a 19th century romantic poem.

Both of the ships are U.S. commercial providers. The Cygnus craft belongs to Orbital ATK and is currently providing services at the ISS. It will depart the station on June 4 as SpaceX’s Dragon craft approaches, and Dragon will dock on June 5. In a press release, NASA wrote that they will “pass each other in orbit.”

A cloud behind a SpaceX rocket carrying a Dragon supply ship in 2014.

Getty Images / Joe Raedle

This isn’t a unique experience; NASA’s Daniel Huot tells Inverse that it has occurred “several times” and that the last was quite recently: Cygnus was in orbit around the station while a Russian Soyuz craft went by on April 20. Right now happens to be a moment in which a high volume of vehicles are coming to and from the ISS.

Huot said that these instances show “the busy traffic involving a range of vehicles coming and going from the station in a short period of time.”

There will be no photographs of the event, unfortunately. We’ll just have to imagine these two ships soaring past each other, together in spirit but alone in their separate paths: star-crossed.

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
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