A rocket has launched over Virginia’s eastern shore and is carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The Antares rocket, a launch system developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation and used successfully by NASA in the past, took to the skies to carry a Cygnus spacecraft named the S.S. John Young on the first stage of its journey to the ISS.
Inside the spacecraft are essential supplies for the ISS itself and the crew onboard, such as scientific equipment and food. Around 7,400 lbs. (3,400 kilograms) of supplies were packed into the craft, including a few special treats for the astronauts like fresh fruit and ice cream. The other cargo includes vehicle hardware, computer resources, and spacewalk equipment.
The launch had to be delayed for two days due to poor weather, but it was able to go ahead on November 17 once skies cleared. Now the craft will fly through space over the weekend and should arrive at the ISS on Monday at 5:20 a.m. EST. Once it comes near to the space station, the craft will be captured with a robotic arm controlled by the astronauts, allowing it to be reeled in and its cargo collected.
Joel Montalbano, NASA’s deputy station program manager, described the launch as “outstanding” and praised the team at private company Northrop Grumman which built the rocket. He also discussed the challenges faced by the ISS as there are currently only three astronauts on board instead of the expected five. In October the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft was aborted due to a deformed sensor and the American and Russian crew were forced to perform a dramatic emergency landing. This meant that the extra crew members were not able to make it to the ISS.
But the smaller crew on the ISS has apparently been operating without issue, and has been able to keep up with scheduled maintenance and research activities. “The crew members on board have picked it up and they’ve been really working hard and picking up the things that had to get done,” Montalbano said. “Any science or research that was time-critical is being done, and we’re reprioritizing other activities.”