A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launched after days of delays from Cape Canaveral.
VPC

CAPE CANAVERAL — An Atlas V rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sunday afternoon carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.

High winds and rain had pushed the launch back three times since Thursday’s initial try. After scrubs during launch windows on Thursday and Friday, managers looking at only a 20% chance of good conditions Saturday decided in early afternoon to halt the countdown before fueling the United Launch Alliance rocket, opting to give crews some rest and wait for better weather to come.

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus craft is packed with more than 7,000 pounds of food, spare parts and science experiments for the ISS and its six-person crew. The mission is Orbital ATK’s fourth of 10 under a NASA resupply contract worth more than $2 billion.

The Cygnus returns to flight on the 60th flight of ULA’s highly reliable Atlas V rocket after its last mission aboard Orbital ATK’s own Antares rocket failed seconds after liftoff from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in October 2014.

“We are very proud to be back in this position of getting ready to launch supplies to the International Space Station again,” said Frank Culbertson, president of the Space Systems Group at Orbital ATK, which developed the Cygnus and Antares, on Wednesday. “It’s been a challenge to get back to this point.”

Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance pulled this flight together within a year of first discussing a partnership, enabling the Cygnus to return to flight months before the Antares could be re-fitted with new engines.

The silver, cylindrical Cygnus will berth in about two-and-a-half days at the ISS.

The space station is still rebounding from a string of resupply failures that began with the failed Antares-Cygnus launch. A Russian Progress ship was lost months later, and a SpaceX Dragon capsule ended up in the ocean after a Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated in June.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Supplies have arrived safely since then, but none launched from the U.S. The station now has enough food to last into April, below the five- or six-month margin NASA would prefer to have.

“We’re not where we’d really like to be relative to our consumables, but it’s not a critical situation at all,” said Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA’s space station program.

More pressing, perhaps, are shortages of certain spare parts, such as a spacesuit jet pack and tanks of high-pressure oxygen and nitrogen to recharge station supplies that haven’t been topped off since the last shuttle mission in 2011.

The Cygnus, named in honor of Mercury Seven astronaut Deke Slayton, also will deliver some holiday cheer to the station’s six-person crew.

“I’m guessing that Santa’s sleigh is somewhere inside the Cygnus,” Culbertson said. “They’re probably excited about their stockings coming up, too.”

Follow James Dean on Twitter:[email protected]_jdean

  • Atlas V rocket blasts into space with GPS satellite

    Atlas V rocket blasts into space with GPS satellite

  • Atlas V rocket lifts off with Mexican satellite

    Atlas V rocket lifts off with Mexican satellite

  • Watch Atlas V rocket blast into space

    Watch Atlas V rocket blast into space

  • Japan launches cargo shipment to space station

    Japan launches cargo shipment to space station

  • Video: Delta IV rocket launch with USAF satellite

    Video: Delta IV rocket launch with USAF satellite

  • Soyuz rocket launches towards ISS after delay

    Soyuz rocket launches towards ISS after delay

  • Russian cargo ship safely en route to ISS

    Russian cargo ship safely en route to ISS

  • SpaceX rocket explosion: 'It's space and it's difficult'

    SpaceX rocket explosion: ‘It’s space and it’s difficult’

  • Atlas V rocket launches with secretive Air Force space plane

    Atlas V rocket launches with secretive Air Force space plane

  • Check out the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch towards ISS

    Check out the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch towards ISS

  • See spectacular light show from Soyuz rocket launch

    See spectacular light show from Soyuz rocket launch

  • NASA launches Atlas V to solve magnetic mystery

    NASA launches Atlas V to solve magnetic mystery

  • Here's what NASA's Atlas V rocket looks like in space

    Here’s what NASA’s Atlas V rocket looks like in space

  • Watch: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch into sky

    Watch: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch into sky

  • Raw: Pink cloud visible after rocket launch

    Raw: Pink cloud visible after rocket launch

  • Watch: SpaceX launches Falcon 9 DSCOVR rocket

    Watch: SpaceX launches Falcon 9 DSCOVR rocket

  • Atlas V rocket launched successfully for Navy mission

    Atlas V rocket launched successfully for Navy mission

  • SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully blasts into space

    SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully blasts into space

  • NASA's Orion launches on second attempt

    NASA’s Orion launches on second attempt

  • Watch NASA's Orion launch from eight different angles

    Watch NASA’s Orion launch from eight different angles

  • Soyuz rocket blasts 3 astronauts towards ISS

    Soyuz rocket blasts 3 astronauts towards ISS

Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1QpiNiN