The Astro Pi in the Columbus ISS Training Module in Germany (Credit: ESA)

The Astro Pi in the Columbus ISS Training Module in Germany (Credit: ESA)

On Thursday Orbital ATK’s Orb-4 mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled to launch from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, the same pad that saw the launch of both Voyager and Curiosity, and onboard the space freighter will be two Raspberry Pi boards.

The Cygnus spacecraft which will carry the Raspberry Pi boards to the ISS will launch on top of a ULA Atlas V after the loss of Orbital’s Antares rocket carrying Orb-3 at the tail end of last year. The Antares is not due to return to flight till the first half of next year.

The Cygnus spacecraft encapsulated in the four-meter Atlas V fairing. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

The Cygnus spacecraft encapsulated in the four-meter Atlas V fairing. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

The two Raspberry Pi boards are equipped with a camera as well as a Sense HAT that can measure the environment inside the ISS as well as the Earth’s magnetic field. Each Pi has a different kind of camera; one is a standard visible light camera, the other one that images in the infrared bands. Encased inside specially built aluminium flight cases (shown below), the Raspberry Pi boards are being flown to the ISS as part of the Astro Pi project, in support of  British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake’s mission to the space station.

The Astro Pi (Credit: Raspberry Pi Foundation)

The Astro Pi (Credit: Raspberry Pi Foundation)

Tim Peake, along with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, will follow the Astro Pi boards to the space station. They three are scheduled to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft on December 15th.

The Orb-4 mission will be closely watched. Not only because it is the first time that a Cygnus spacecraft has been launched on top of an Atlas V, but also because the station partners are hoping that this flight will end the run of bad luck to hit station resupply missions over the last year or so.

You can watch the launch of the Astro Pi boards live on NASA TV on Thursday, coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. EST (21:30 GMT). The launch of the Soyuz carrying Tim Peake and the rest of Expedition 46/47 crew will also be covered live on NASA TV.