An Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft was launched towards the International Space Station(IIS) on March 22. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launched this unmanned Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to deliver nearly 3.5 tons of supplies for astronauts on the IIS.
Nearly four tons of food, spare parts and science experiments have arrived safely. At 6:51 a.m. EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) today, astronauts Tim Kopra of NASA and Tim Peake of the European Space Agency used the orbiting laboratory’s 58-foot robotic arm to snare Orbital ATK’s Cygnus supply ship, as the spacecraft flew 252 miles above the southern Indian Ocean.
Orbital ATK gave the Cygnus the honorary name of “S.S. Rick Husband,” for the late NASA astronaut who piloted an early space shuttle mission to the ISS and commanded the Columbia crew lost during reentry from space in 2003.
Among other science experiments, the Cygnus spacecraft carried the largest piece of material ever set aflame in space. In total, the spacecraft carried about 7,500 lbs. (3,400 kilograms) of research equipment, science experiments, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbiting laboratory.
This is the fifth attempted launch of a Cygnus spacecraft as part of Orbital ATK’s Commercial Resupply contract with NASA. All but one of the previous four launches were successful; in October, 2014, the company’s Antares rocket exploded just second after liftoff.
This is the second “enhanced” Cygnus spacecraft to make a trip to the space station; the first enhanced version flew in December. The new version of the spacecraft has increased storage capacity compared to previous models. This particular Cygnus vehicle has carried more cargo to the station than any of the previous five Cygnus station re-supply missions.
The Cygnus spacecraft will stay on the station for about two months, NASA said, during which time the crew will fill the cargo vehicle with several tons of trash. The spacecraft will then burn up during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.