Orbital ATK launched an Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station on Sunday morning from the NASA facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.
The cargo ship contains 7,400 pounds of science equipment and supplies. It's also loaded with food supplies including pizza, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, and fruit bars, among other frozen treats - it's like a food truck in space.
The astronauts on the ISS had been waiting eagerly for the arrival of the treats, according to a tweet by crew member Joseph M. Acaba.
Dulles-based company Orbital ATK has a contract with the U.S. space agency to send provisions, which include a total of 66,000 pounds of cargo, to the space station. The launch of the cargo ship on Nov. 12 marked the company’s first launch from its home turf in more than a year. The last time it made a delivery to the ISS, it used another company’s rocket, which took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The Cygnus spacecraft launched from the Antares rocket is expected to reach the space laboratory at 4:50 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Frank DeMauro of Orbital ATK has said this would be Orbital’s fastest journey to the ISS in its eight launch attempts.
After the astronauts on the space station unload all the supplies from the Cygnus, they will refill it with trash. The cargo ship will then be released from the ISS on Dec. 4, after which it will burn up during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.
Rocket Sent Off Amid Cheers
There was quite a gathering at Wallops as crowds braved the freezing temperatures to see the rocket off to space. The Antares was actually supposed to be launched on Saturday; however, that got nixed when a plane strayed into the restricted airspace. Sunday’s launch was also about to get foiled because of a few boats that had made their way into the keep-out zone.
Though the crowd turnout at the Wallops visitors center was smaller in comparison to the gathering on Saturday, the cheers of the assembled spectators gave quite the competition to the rocket’s rumbling growl.
"We were sitting here for three hours yesterday, and it was a lot colder than it is today,” said Bob Bryant, a spectator who had shown up on both Saturday and Sunday to view the launch. “We've tailgated at sporting events, so I thought why can't we do that at a rocket launch.”