After several scrubbed attempts, a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket has taken off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, launching an uncrewed Cygnus cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The Cygnus spacecraft is carrying a total of 8,000 pounds of crew supplies and science experiments for the ISS.
The mission had been expected to originally launch on Tuesday, September 29, but this had to be pushed back due to unfavorable weather conditions. The new launch date was set for Thursday, October 1, and the rocket was fueled and ready to go but was then scrubbed again after an issue with ground support equipment. The launch was pushed back once more to late on Friday, October 2, and this time the launch went ahead as planned at 9:16 p.m. ET.
The Antares rocket made it safely into orbit and the Cygnus spacecraft deployed its solar array successfully. The craft is now traveling toward the space station, where it is expected to arrive at 5:20 a.m. ET on Monday, October 5. It will be captured using the station’s robotic arm, controlled by NASA astronaut and Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy, from where it will be installed onto the station’s Unity module.
Included on the Cygnus are a new crop of radishes to be grown in the microgravity of the space station in order to learn more about how plants grow in space and to provide more nutritious and fresh food for astronauts in the future, an investigation into drugs used to treat leukemia which could be made more safe and effective, a camera to record spacewalks for virtual reality experiences, and a new toilet for the ISS which is more comfortable to use and which could eventually be used on the moon.
This particular Cygnus spacecraft was named after Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian descent to go to space. She was a NASA astronaut who first flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1997, and was one of the crew members who died in the Columbia disaster in 2003.