Photo: Cygnus capsule
Orbital Science’s Cygnus capsule lifted off Thursday atop an Antares rocket from Virginia’s Wallop Island, carrying almost a ton of equipment and supplies for the International Space Station.
NASA broadcast the 8:07 a.m. launch on its television channel.
If all goes as scheduled, next Monday Cygnus will rendezvous with the ISS 385 kilometers (239 miles) above the Earth.
Two of the six astronauts currently aboard the station, NASA’s Michael Hopkins and Koichi Wakata of Japan, will capture Cygnus with the ISS’s robotic arm and dock it with the the ISS.
The launch of the Antares rocket was postponed on Tuesday due to the cold wave that affected a large part of the United States and had to be postponed again on Wednesday because of the intense radiation caused by a solar eruption.
Besides the supplies, Cygnus is also carrying 33 small satellites, including one from Peru, which will be transferred to the ISS for subsequent seeding in orbit.
The Orbital Sciences mission is another step in the privatization of U.S. space exploration since, in 2011, the three-decade-long space shuttle program came to an end.
The space shuttles were the main vehicles used in the construction of the ISS.
Aince then, the missions to supply the ISS and ferry crewmembers into orbit and back to Earth have been performed using Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
NASA has signed contracts with Orbital Sciences and Space Exploration Technologies for future ISS supply missions, in which 15 nations are participating.