US cargo ship blasts off for space station with supplies, experiments

Space station supply ship at launch pad honors John Glenn

After being postponed multiple times over the last month, attributable to a hydraulic issue, Orbital ATK's OA-7 Cygnus spacecraft is finally all set to take off tomorrow, 18th April 2017 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

However, given that the Cygnus spacecraft and its cargo was only 15,928 pounds (7,225 kilograms) going to low-Earth orbit, the vehicle was more than up to the task.

To those unknown, earlier, Orbital ATK used to lift off its Cygnus spacecraft on its in-house Antares launch vehicle.

This is Orbital's third time launching the Cygnus on an Atlas V - the flagship rocket manufactured by the United Launch Alliance. Scientists, so far, have been unable to monitor those conditions on a large scale, and a better understanding could lead to more accurate spacecraft breakup predictions, better spacecraft designs, and materials capable of better resisting the extreme heat and pressure during the return to Earth.

Along with some belated Easter baskets for the crew, the cargo also includes a number of key science experiments: one involves testing out a new antibody drug that could help make chemotherapy treatments more effective for cancer patients.

While missions to be launched Russian Federation and the United States represent business as usual, China is aiming to take another major step along the trail blazed by the two pioneers of the early space age. It should reach the ISS in about four days.

When Cygnus arrives at the ISS, it will be grabbed by the stations robotic Canadarm2, which will be operated by the crew of Expedition 51, at about 6:05 a.m. EDT (10:05 GMT).

The spacecraft will remain at the orbiting laboratory until July, when it will be loaded with unneeded equipment and detached for eventual burn up in Earth's atmosphere. The Antares is planned for this year which will be propelling the next Cygnus mission.

Tuesday's launch of supplies from Cape Canaveral is a part of NASA's commercial cargo program, a partnership with private companies to supply the station.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation's most experienced and reliable launch service provider.

Tuesday's launch marked the first time NASA, in coordination with the ULA and Orbital ATK, has broadcast a rocket launch with a 360-degree view, which should "virtually place the public at the base of the rocket during launch".

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