The International Space Station is about to get much-needed supplies – 7,400-7,700 pounds of food, science experiments, space equipment, and other necessities to keep astronauts alive and busy in space.
After a successful launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft on Sunday, December 6th at 4:44:56 P.M. Eastern time, which was already three days late from its original planned launch due to blustery weather conditions in the Cape Canaveral, Florida area, the International Space Station is estimated to receive its supplies via the attached resupply capsule by this Wednesday.
Among some of the experiments are supplies for testing the effects of gasses, liquids, and burning textiles in micro-gravitational situations.
The successful launch marks an important milestone for the United States, which has had some not-so-lucky attempts to resupply the International Space Station in the past, such as with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 spacecraft exploding shortly after take-off, and another failed rocket launch in the previous year. It’s the United States’ first time resupplying the International Space Station since April.
The successful launch also shows that the United States is still capable of supplying the International Space Station despite its reliance on commercial companies, and that it’s not always going to have to rely on other nations, such as Russia, to supply astronauts in space.
"The Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance teams quickly learned more during this launch campaign about tailoring the Atlas booster flight path so that our team and NASA can capitalize on the increased capacity of the enhanced Cygnus and the lifting power of the Atlas V to deliver large quantities of vital goods to the space station. The crew members need these critical supplies from Earth to do their important work, and we intend to do everything possible to enable their mission to continue," said Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK's Space Systems Group and a former astronaut.
It was a close one. The International Space Station wasn’t exactly empty just yet, but with only four months of food and supplies left on board prior to the launch, the latest resupply launch will get resources back to a comfortable level. This is a big deal considering there are currently six astronauts and cosmonauts above the International Space Station today.
You can watch the successful launch below:
With NASA teaming up with American commercial space companies, and the companies racing to earn NASA's trust with contracts for future missions, this is a chalk on the tally board for Orbital ATK.