The International Space Station is slated to receive approximately 7,400 pounds’ worth of fresh supplies this week after an Orbital ATK-branded Antares rocket successfully blasted off from a launch pad in Wallops Island, Virginia early Monday morning.
Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
The rocket was initially slated to launch on Sunday, but weather-related delays caused it to be pushed back until 4:44 A.M. Eastern time on Monday. NASA took full advantage of the impediments to conduct additional safety checks before launch. You can watch the launch below:
At the very top of the Antares rocket was a Cygnus cargo spacecraft; this is where NASA packed all the supplies for the astronauts living on the International Space station. The more than three tons’ worth of supplies included fresh food and water, new science experiments to conduct in space, and other necessities (clothes, fuel, oxygen, replacement parts, etc.)
Among the science experiments packed onboard were a cement-mixing test and an atom-cooling chamber dubbed Cold Atom Lab (CAL) that should allow scientists to study Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) for longer periods of time than what’s possible on Earth.
International Space station astronauts should receive these new supplies by Thursday, May 14th. By then, the Cygnus spacecraft should arrive at and dock with the Earth-orbiting space lab so that the astronauts onboard can stock up on everything they need. Afterward, they’ll fill the spacecraft back up with spent supplies and trash that will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere upon re-entry seven weeks later.
Along with SpaceX, Orbital ATK is one of the only commercial space companies that NASA signed agreements with for resupplying the International Space Station. Monday’s launch marks Orbital ATK’s ninth resupply attempt out of 11 as per this agreement.