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Rocket en Route to ISS Launches From NASA Wallops Island

Image by Alex Polimeni of Spaceflight Now.

By Logan Dubel

Shuttle up! A Northrop Grumman Corporation Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus cargo ship with supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) successfully launched early Monday evening. The unmanned rocket took off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, about an hour south of Ocean City, Maryland.

Within 36 hours from liftoff, the 139-foot tall Antares rocket will reach the space station, delivering 8,200 pounds of equipment to Expedition 65 astronauts aboard. This includes updated hardware, tools for medical and logistical research, as well as devices to assist with dozens of projects.

NASA/Joel Kowsky

Some of the initiatives featured are 3D printing tests for the rapid construction of structures, dramatically reducing the quantity of material scientists would need to carry from Earth into space. This would also make launches more cost-effective. Other investigations include an improved technology to remove carbon dioxide from spacecraft and a thermal protection system aiming to protect rockets upon re-entering the atmosphere. Click here for more details.

This is not Northrop Grumman’s first foray into space. Monday’s launched marked the aerospace technology company’s 16th resupply mission. The most recent launch from Wallops, the 15th cargo launch, took place in February.

NASA Wallops/Jamie Adkins

The launch occurred at 6:01 p.m. ET and went forward after resolving a few minor concerns. Just an hour before takeoff, flight experts tracked a boat that could have potentially entered restricted waters too close to the flight path. They were also pretentious over a pressure drop in the rocket’s helium pressurization system. Luckily, the launch conductor and team resolved both issues prior to liftoff.

By 8:46 p.m. ET, the rocket successfully released solar arrays to collect power for the remainder of its journey. Arrival at the space station is expected Thursday at 6:10 a.m. ET.

As always, the launch was quite a spectacle, and people gathered near the site to catch a close glimpse of the spacecraft. For those further away from Wallops, the rocket was visible anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes after takeoff. People in Ocean City caught the action, gathering at the Inlet for a clearer view.

NASA/Joel Kowsky

The Wallops launch pad welcomed a special guest for the grand event, NASA administrator and former Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

Not only did the launch demonstrate the marvels of space travel and advancing technology, but it also represented how far space innovation has come. Officially named the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, the spacecraft honored one of the NASA astronauts lost in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster. Onizuka, an Air Force Colonel, mission specialist, and aerospace pioneer, was the first Asian American to reach space.

The next flight from Wallops Flight Facility is unknown, so stay tuned for more information.

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