Phew: ISS re-supply mission launches without destroying Wallops launch-pad

5,000 pounds of astronaut-fodder fly without flame-outs

It ran five minutes late, but NASA's ISS resupply launch atop an Orbital ATK Antares rocket has gone off without a hitch.

Space-watchers were nervous about this one: it was the first Antares launch since October 2014, when US$200 million-plus worth of rocket exploded, destroying its payload and leaving NASA with more than $20 million worth of damage to its Wallops flight facility.

After finding that the explosion was caused by a manufacturing defect in the Russian Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ26 engines, Orbital ATK replaced the engines with NPO Energomash's RD-181 motors.

Today's successful launch carried 5,000 pounds of supplies for the ISS, including food, equipment, and science experiments.

Experiments lofted to the ISS include wearable sensors (for watching astronaut health), and a test lighting system to better manage their diurnal cycles.

There's a “cold flames” experiment to test how different fuels burn in low gravity; and a radiation sensor, the fast neutron spectrometer, to improve measurement of radiation astronauts are exposed to.

With the successful separation of the Cygnus spacecraft, nearly 40 minutes after launch, all that's left is the manoeuvring to the payload's heavenly rendezvous with the ISS. ®


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