CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – A cargo of space station supplies fired into Virginia's orbit on Saturday, the second shipment in two days.
And another commercial delivery should be on the way in a few weeks.
"What an exceptional launch," said NASA space station program manager Joel Montalbano.
Northrop Grumman launched its Antares rocket from Wallops Island before dawn, reveling in the cold early bird watchers along the Atlantic coast. The Russian Space Agency launched its own supplies for the International Space Station on Friday, just 15 hours earlier.
The US delivery will arrive at the orbital lab Monday, a day after the Russian shipment. Among the 7,400 pounds (3,350 kg) of products inside the Cygnus capsule: ice cream and fresh fruit for the three space station residents, and a 3D printer that recycles old plastic into new parts.
Thanksgiving turkey dinners – rehydrating, of course – are already aboard the 250-mile outpost. The space station is currently home to an American, a German and a Russian.
There is another big event coming up there: the space station marks its twentieth year in orbit on Tuesday. The first section was launched on November 20, 1998 in Kazakhstan.
"As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station," Montalbano noted, "one of the cool things is the cooperation we have around the world." Then there is the US trade effort to keep the space station stocked and, next year. to resume the launches of the Cape Canaveral crew. "For me, it has been a huge success," he said.
This Cygnus, or Swan, is named S.S. John Young to pay homage to the legendary astronaut who walked on the moon and commanded the first shuttle flight. He died in January.
It is the first commercial cargo ship to bear the name of Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman acquired Orbital ATK in June. SpaceX is another NASA commercial shipper for the space station; his Dragon capsule is ready to take off in early December.
Experiments that come through Cygnus will see how cement solidifies in the absence of weight, among other things. There are also medical supplies, space clothing and other equipment to replace items that never came to orbit last month because of a failure in the Russian rocket; the two men on the rocket survived the emergency landing. Three other astronauts are due to leave Kazakhstan on December 3.