Finally, Cygnus cargo spacecraft launches for trip to space station

After 3 postponements, commercial spacecraft sets off carrying food, spare parts, experiments

After three postponements, Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket lifted off this afternoon, carrying a cargo spacecraft filled with supplies for the International Space Station.

The Antares rocket launched at 1:07 p.m. ET from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus cargo spacecraft is on its way to dock with the space station> It is expected to reach the space station Sunday morning.

Just getting off the launch pad for this resupply mission has been a tough journey for Orbital Sciences.

Cygnus' original Dec. 18 launch date was postponed due to problems with a cooling system on the space station. It was then rescheduled for launch on Tuesday, but was postponed because of cold weather. A Wednesday launch was pushed off because of concerns with high levels of radiation caused by a major coronal eruption on the sun.

Moments after launch, the Orbital tweeted, "Liftoff #Orb1 #antares #cygnus Love feeling the roar of a launch."

Cygnus is carrying 2,780 pounds of cargo, including food, spare parts andscientific experiments, including 23 devised by students, to the space station.

One of the experiments has been dubbed the Spheres-Slosh study. Liquid will be put into small, free-flying satellites to simulate how rocket fuel moves around inside tanks in response to motor thrusts used to push a rocket through space.

NASA scientists hope that a deeper understanding of how rocket propellants act can help them find ways to improve fuel efficiency and thus lower the cost of industry and taxpayer-funded satellite launches.

Other experiments involve ants and the study of swarm intelligence, and a study of antibiotic drug resistance.

This article, Finally, Cygnus cargo spacecraft launches to space station, was originally published at

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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