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Cygnus transport ship launch postponed due to high solar activity

January 08, 2014, 20:07 UTC+3 WASHINGTON

The cargo ship will take more than 1.3 tonnes of various supplies to the ISS, including food, water, spare parts, and research equipment

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© EPA/NASA/Bill Ingalls

WASHINGTON, January 08, 20:01 /ITAR-TASS/. The launch of the Antares carrier rocket with the Cygnus transport ship aboard to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed because of high solar activity, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said on Wednesday, January 8.

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.

Last night, 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.

Cygnus was scheduled to be launched at 13:32 local time January 8 aboard Antares from the Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia. But the launch was postponed for one day because of abnormally low temperatures in the area.

The cargo ship will take 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).

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.

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.

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