An uncrewed Antares rocket owned by Orbital ATK on Monday blasted off from Virginia with a cargo ship for the International Space Station, marking the booster’s return to flight two years after a previous version exploded at liftoff.
The 14-story-tall rocket, powered by a pair of new Russian-made engines, lifted off from Wallops Island at 7:45pm, a NASA TV broadcast showed.
Launch was delayed five minutes to give the team extra time to review their checklists, Orbital president Frank Culbertson told reporters.
“It’s such a feeling of elation to see the vehicle take off... I’m very happy to see Antares back,” Orbital director of program engineering Amanda Davis said.
The rocket carried a Cygnus capsule loaded with 2,400kg of food, supplies, equipment and science experiments for the space station, a US$100 billion laboratory in orbit about 400km above Earth.
The capsule is expected to reach the station on Sunday after lingering several days in orbit to allow time for a Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three new crew members to reach the outpost on Friday.
The Soyuz is slated to launch today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The last Antares launch, on Oct. 28, 2014, ended in disaster a few seconds after liftoff due to a problem with the booster’s refurbished, Soviet-era engines. After the accident, Orbital sped up plans to replace the motors.
During the downtime, Orbital bought rides for two Cygnus cargo ships aboard Atlas rockets, built and flown by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
Orbital conducted a 30-second engine test firing of the Antares at the Virginia launch pad on May 31, but had never flown the refurbished rocket before Monday.
The mission became more crucial for the US space agency after a Sept. 1 accident destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and a US$200 million Israeli communications satellite.
The accident, which occurred while the rocket was being fueled for a routine prelaunch test, has temporarily grounded SpaceX, the only company apart from Orbital contracted by NASA to fly cargo to the space station.
Private contractors for the cargo runs became necessary following the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.
With SpaceX sidelined, NASA said it added extra food, clothing, laptop computers and spacesuit parts to the Cygnus cargo list.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies