Washington, July 14 :
An unmanned spacecraft operated by commercial US space company Orbital Sciences Corp blasted off Sunday for its second cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA TV showed.
The spacecraft was launched atop the company’s Antares rocket at 12:52 p.m. from the U.S. space agency NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia, Xinhua reported.
“Orb2 liftoff!” Orbital tweeted, “Go #Antares! Go #Cygnus!!”
About 10 minutes later, Cygnus separated from the rocket’s second stage as planned.
The ship was filled with about 1.5 metric tonnes of science investigations, food and supplies for the ISS and its crew. Also onboard are 32 tiny satellites known as CubeSats that are designed to take images of Earth, hardware for Japan’s JAXA Space Agency and numerous student science experiments.
If all goes well, Cygnus is expected to rendezvous and dock with the ISS Wednesday, where it will be captured by ISS astronauts using the orbiting lab’s robotic arm and then installed on the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony module.
Cygnus is planned to remain attached to the ISS for about 30 days before departing with 1.3 metric tonnes of disposable cargo for a destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean approximately five days later.
“So far, our second operational CRS (Commercial Resupply Services) mission is off to a great start with Cygnus operating exactly as anticipated at this early stage of the mission,” David Thompson, Orbital’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
“We are very pleased to be a reliable partner with NASA to meet their need for reliable, regularly scheduled cargo resupply for the ISS. I … look forward to completing another safe and successful mission for our NASA customer.”
This mission also marked the fourth successful launch of Antares in the past 15 months and the third deployment of Cygnus in less than a year, Thompson said.
Under a $1.9 billion deal with NASA, Orbital will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver up to 20 metric tonnes of cargo to the ISS over eight missions through late 2016. Its first mission was launched in January.
Orbital said its third cargo mission has been scheduled for October, with another three resupply launches being planned for 2015.
Besides Orbital, NASA has also signed a deal with another private company called SpaceX to supply cargo to the ISS.