Astronauts on the International Space Station are enjoying a fresh batch of supplies in time for the Easter holiday after a Northrop Grumman-built Antares resupply rocket ignited its engines and blasted off from a launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Wednesday.
Image Credit: Bill Ingalls, NASA
The Cygnus spacecraft that was at the top of the Antares rocket arrived at the International Space Station just two days later, carrying more than 7,600 pounds’ worth of provisions. Those included food, oxygen, water and a host of new science experiments that astronauts on the Earth-orbiting space lab will deploy over the next several months to advance our knowledge of space science.
In one of NASA’s public statements, we learn that the Cygnus spacecraft will stay docked with the International Space Station until July 23rd. In that time, astronauts will use it as a giant garbage can, removing waste that has accumulated on the space station since the last resupply launch. Afterward, the spacecraft will detach from the space station and deploy CubeSats in space before eventually re-entering and burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere – trash and all.
It seems like business as usual for NASA, right? Well of course it is, but most of the fun involves what NASA shipped to the International Space Station rather than the rocket launch itself. The American space agency highlighted a few the most notable science experiments to be shipped to the International Space Station on its website, including the following:
Several additional experiments are packed onboard the Cygnus spacecraft, but NASA hasn’t gone into much detail about those in the public statement. On the other hand, here's a video of the launch for those interested:
It’s worth noting that SpaceX is slated to deliver more supplies to the International Space Station by April 26th, which is less than a week from now. That said, the astronauts doing work there should have plenty of things on their plate to keep them busy over the next several months.