Space station supply ship at launch pad honors John Glenn


The Cygnus capsule, provided by private space company Orbital ATK, is packed with about 7,600 pounds of supplies and science for the International Space Station.

Cygnus will be grappled the morning of April 22 and remain attached to the space station for approximately three months before departing with roughly 3,300 pounds (1,500 kilograms) of disposable cargo for a safe, destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. At 11:33 a.m., NASA confirmed Cygnus had successfully separated from the rocket and was flying solo. The Antares is planned for this year which will be propelling the next Cygnus mission.

The technology will "virtually place the public at the base of the rocket during launch", NASA said.

Orbital ATK's composite structures and retro motors also supported today's launch of the ULA Atlas V rocket.

"The S.S. John Glenn is dedicated to his legacy as a lifelong pioneer of human spaceflight who paved the way for America's space program".

Orbital has launched seven missions under a commercial resupply services contract with NASA that calls for 10 missions total. The Atlas V 401 configuration rocket has flown 35 times, supporting a diverse set of missions, including national security, science and exploration, commercial as well as International Space Station resupply.

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and NASA's Peggy Whitson will use the space station's robotic arm to capture the Cygnus capsule at about 6 a.m. Saturday. 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. The mission will deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

At 12:40 p.m., coverage of the Orbital ATK Cygnus solar array deployment will begin, followed by a post-launch press conference with mission managers at 2 p.m. Forecasters are predicting a 90 percent chance of acceptable weather Tuesday and Wednesday.

The cargo ship is named after John Glenn, the famed astronauts who was the first American to orbit the Earth and who died previous year at age 95. Minimum viewing distance is typically miles away from the launch pad, but the live 360 stream enables viewers to get a pads-eye view.