Cygnus launch to space station scrubbed again

Resupply mission launch postponed because of solar flare space radiation

For the third time, the launch of a commercial cargo spacecraft set to carry nearly 3,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station has been scrubbed.

Orbital Sciences Corp. canceled today's scheduled launch because of what NASA called an "unusually high level of space radiation" caused by a large solar flare that erupted Tuesday.

The flare, categorized as an x-class or the most intense flare, sent billions of tons of particles into space.The particles are expected to reach Earth starting today and continuing through Friday.

The particles, according to NASA, are harmful to humans, but they can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

While the Cygnus cargo spacecraft would not be affected by the radiation, the Orbital Sciences team was concerned about its effect on the Antares rocket's avionics, NASA reported. The space agency and Orbital Sciences plan to monitor space radiation levels throughout the day and could reschedule the launch for as early as Thursday.

If the launch is rescheduled for Thursday, liftoff would be at 1:10 p.m. ET, with Cygnus set to arrive at the space station on Sunday morning.

Cygnus' original Dec. 18 launch date was postponed due to problems with a cooling system on the space station. It was then rescheduled to launch Tuesday, but that was postponed because of cold weather.

Cygnus will carry 2,780 pounds of cargo that includes food, spare parts and a long list of scientific experiments -- 23 of which are from studenta -- to the space station. One of the student experiments includes ants that will be studied to gain information on swarm intelligence, which could lead to solving complex problems like routing trucks, scheduling airlines or telecommunications efficiency.

solar flare
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a mid-level solar flare at the center of the sun on Tuesday. (Image: NASA/SDO)

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

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