Dulles-based Orbital ATK completed another successful launch of its Antares rocket this morning carrying the Cygnus cargo ship and 3 tons of supplies toward the International Space Station.
The predawn launch occurred at 4:44 a.m. from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The craft reached obit 9 minutes later. The Cygnus is expected to arrive at the space station Thursday.
The S.S. J.R. Thompson, named in honor of the former NASA director and Orbital ATK executive who died in November, is carrying 7,385 pounds of experiments, clothing, food and other supplies for the six Expedition 55 crewmembers living aboard the space station. After making its delivery, the unmanned craft will be filled with 3 tons of trash and unneeded material and return to Earth. The disposable cargo ship and its content will burn up in the atmosphere.
Monday’s launch was Orbital ATK’s ninth cargo delivery mission for NASA under a $2.9 billion contract for 11 resupply missions. It was the seventh mission to use the company’s Antares rocket. The other two launched on Atlas V rockets built by the United Launch Alliance.
Orbital ATK is one of two companies, with SpaceX, under contract with NASA to ferrying cargo to the space station. SpaceX has flown 14 of its 20 delivery flights using its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon spacecraft. NASA has selected Orbital ATK, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp. for the next round of cargo delivery contracts under its Commercial Resupply Services 2 program.
Learn more about the current mission here.