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WASHINGTON, January 10, 3:02 /ITAR-TASS/. The new American cargo ship Cygnus was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, January 9.
The Antares carrier rocket with Cygnus aboard lifted off from the Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, at 13:07 EST.
Cygnus is now travelling 17,500 mph in Earth’s orbit to rendezvous with the ISS on Sunday, January 12, for the Orbital-1 cargo resupply mission, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said.
Its launch was initially scheduled for December 19, 2013, but was postponed because of problems in the cooling system in the American segment of the ISS. When the problems were fixed, specialists considered February 2014 as a possible launch date for Cygnus. However later they decided to move it to January.
The launch was postponed again on January 8, 2014 due to high solar activity.
The company Orbital Sciences, which built the ship, had decided to postpone the launch due to “an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded constraints imposed on Antares”, NASA said.
The solar flux activity that occurred on Tuesday afternoon, January 7, resulted in an increasing level of radiation beyond what the Antares engineering team monitored earlier in the day, the space agency said.
On the night from January 7 to January 8, Orbital Sciences’ engineers conducted an analysis of the radiation levels, but “the Antares team decided to postpone the launch to further examine the potential effects of the space radiation on the rocket’s avionics. The Cygnus spacecraft would not be affected by the solar event,” NASA said.
On January 9, Orbital Sciences’ specialists confirmed that high radiation levels would not affect the mission.
The cargo ship is carrying more than 1.3 tonnes of various supplies to the ISS, including food, water, spare parts, and research equipment.
The Cygnus spacecraft is an unmanned resupply spacecraft being developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation. Since August 2000 unmanned ISS resupply missions have been regularly flown by Russian Progress spacecraft, as well as by the European Automated Transfer Vehicle, the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, and the SpaceX Dragon. With the Cygnus spacecraft, NASA seeks to increase its partnerships with domestic commercial aviation and aeronautics industry
The spacecraft consists of two basic components: the Pressurised Cargo Module (PCM) and the Service Module (SM).
Several months ago, Cygnus made a trial flight to the ISS. This time, on the way back it from the ISS will pick up waste to be burnt together with the craft in Earth’s atmosphere.