It’s been more than a year since Orbital ATK’s last attempted supply mission to the International Space Station. In October 2014, a faulty turbopump led to an explosion shortly after liftoff.
Last year’s accident is now behind them. Yesterday, an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft carrying more than 7,000 pounds of supplies and equipment blasted off from Cape Canaveral. Turns out, fourth time’s the charm. Bad weather scrapped three previous attempts last week. Check out the smooth launch below.
And how NASA astronaut Scott Kelly saw it.
Here’s Frank Culbertson, President of Orbital ATK’s Space System Group, shortly after launch. “Everything looks great in this early stage of the mission. I congratulate the combined NASA, ULA and Orbital ATK team for its hard work to get us to this point, and I look forward to completing another safe and successful flight to the ISS in several days.”
What kind of goodies are aboard Cygnus?
The new, enhanced Cygnus carries about 25% more mass than the previous iteration. As with all supply missions, the food and science categories take up much of this space.
Some of the science payloads include a new life science facility that will support studies focused on cell cultures and microorganisms. A microsatellite deployer will deploy the first microsatellite (CubeSat) from the space station. A group of students and teachers from St. Thomas More Cathedral School will become the first elementary school to put a CubeSat into orbit. Several CubeSats will be deployed in the coming weeks. Various teams will use the CubeSats for technological confirmation and relaying data from space. It’s a fantastic way to get kids involved in space early and with hands-on experiences.
Fresh experiments center around the behavior of gases and liquids. One of these experiments will also take another look at the thermophysical properties of molten steel according to NASA.
Astronauts are also getting their hands on a new tech gadget before any of us. A set of Microsoft HoloLens makes up a few pounds of the more than 7,000 heading towards the ISS. NASA tried sending a HoloLens up their back in the summer, but it was destroyed in the SpaceX explosion.
The pair of HoloLens is part of a new project dubbed Sidekick. “HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program. “This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars.”
Check out a group of NASA astronauts taking HoloLens for a spin during a parabolic flight.
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren will be up bright and early on Wednesday to catch the Cygnus spacecraft. At 6:10 am, Lindgren will use the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to grab the supply spacecraft. Once docked, Cygnus will stay attached for more than a month as the ISS crew clean up.
More than 3,000 pounds of trash will be thrown into the spacecraft. After that, it will detach and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.