Resupply mission blasts off to the international space station

24 Mar

Yesterday, March 23, a United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket blasted off from launch center 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. At 11:05 pm EST (7:05 pm PST) the Altas V carrying an unmanned Cygnus supply vehicle lifted of on its way to the ISS (international space station). The unmanned craft will be taking almost 4 tons (7,750 pounds) of supplies that include food, water, science experiments, and equipment.

“ULA is honored to be a part of the team that delivered more than 7,700 pounds of cargo to the astronauts aboard the ISS and CubeSats to be deployed after Cygnus separates from the ISS,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president, Human Launch Services. “Congratulations to our mission partners at Orbital ATK and NASA on another successful launch that will help advance our scientific knowledge on Earth and in space, and inspire the next generation of space explorers.”

United Launch Alliance is taking the place of Orbital ATK that is under contract for the mission but has been grounded since their October 2014 explosion. That explosion destroyed part of the launchpad and an Antares supply vehicle that was carrying 5,500 pounds of supplies to ISS. After an investigation into that explosion it was found that there was a flaw in the engine Orbital used on their rocket. They vowed that they would not fly again until the problem was corrected. The company is in hopes that the problem will be taken care of and they will have the Antares rocket ready by early Summer.

“While still preliminary and subject to change, the current evidence strongly suggests that one of the two AJ26 main engines that powered Antares’ first stage failed about 15 seconds after ignition,” Orbital president and CEODavid Thompson said during a conference call last year. “At this time, we believe the failure likely originated in, or directly affected, the turbopump machinery of this engine, but I want to stress that more analysis will be required to confirm that this finding is correct.” He later added, “We will likely discontinue the use of the AJ26 rocket engines that had been used on the first five Antares launch vehicles unless and until those engines can be conclusively shown to be flightworthy,”

United Launch Alliance was formed in December of 2006 as a joint venture between Lockheed Space System and Boeing Defense. The ULA uses Delta II, Delta IV, and Atlas V rocket to carry out a variety of missions from supply runs to National Security satellites. Their next scheduled mission is a launch of the United States Navy’s MUOS-5 satellite fro Cape Canaveral, Florida. If all goes as scheduled the launch will take place on May 5, 2016.

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