First commercial cargo spacecraft heads for ISS

Jan. 9, 2014 at 4:51 PM
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WALLOPS ISLAND, Va., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The cargo spacecraft Cygnus launched from Virginia Thursday on the first official mission to ferry supplies to the International Space Station, NASA said.

Flight officials said Cygnus will perform a series of engine firings to put it on track for a Sunday morning rendezvous with the ISS, NASA said in a release. A launch attempt Wednesday was scrubbed because of an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded constraints imposed on the Antares rocket.

NASA's commercial partner Orbital Sciences Corp. launched the spacecraft aboard the Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

For its first official commercial resupply mission, Cygnus is delivering 2,780 pounds of supplies to the space station, including science experiments for the crew aboard the orbiting laboratory. A demonstration flight to the station was completed in September.

Cygnus will stay at the station until mid-February when it will be unberthed for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean, NASA said. Cygnus' departure will clear the way for the arrival of Space Exploration Technologies' SpaceX-3 commercial cargo mission aboard the Dragon spacecraft.

The back-to-back resupply missions by commercial ventures will mark a milestone in NASA's ability to deliver critical new science payloads to the ISS, NASA said.

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