NASA reschedules Cygnus launch for Jan. 7

Orbital Sciences cargo craft slated to deliver nearly 3,000 pounds of supplies to International Space Station

After a postponement last month, NASA has rescheduled the launch of a commercial cargo ship that will carry nearly 3,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station next week.

Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket is now set to lift off at 1:55 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Jan. 7. The rocket will carry the company's Cygnus cargo spacecraft, filled with 2,780 pounds of scientific experiments, food and spare parts.

The launch will be from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The scheduled Dec. 18 launch of Cygnus was postponed because of a cooling problem discovered on the space station last month.

The problem on the space station first surfaced on Dec. 11 when the pump module on one of the orbiter's two external cooling loops shut down. The loops are used to circulate ammonia, which is a coolant, around the outside of the station to keep the internal and external equipment cool.

NASA flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins conducted multiple spacewalks to fix the cooling system. The astronauts removed the malfunctioning pump and replaced it with a 780-pound spare that had been stored on the outside of the station.

Hopkins rode one of the station's robotic arms and moved the new pump move into place.

NASA said the trouble posed no danger to the astronauts living and working on the space station, but ground engineers delayed the launch of Cygnus to provide time and room to move around the outside of the station to fix the problem.

Cygnus will carry 23 student experiments that involved more than 10,000 students on the ground, according to the space agency. The experiments range from amoeba reproduction to calcium in the bones.

In September, Orbital Sciences became the second commercial venture to seal a deal with NASA to run resupply missions to the space station.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is

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