Cygnus Orbital ATK CRS-6 cargo mission on its way to the ISS
The Orbital ATK CRS-6 mission is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). The unmanned Cygnus cargo ship lifted off today atop an Atlas V booster in a spectacular nighttime launch at 11:05 pm EDT from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a three-month mission to deliver about 7,500 lb (3.400 kg) of supplies and experiments to the space station.
According to NASA, the liftoff occurred under perfect weather conditions and without any technical difficulties. At four minutes and 15 seconds into the flight the main engine shut down, followed by the second stage separation six seconds later and the second stage engine firing 10 seconds after that. At the four minute, 39 second mark, the protective fairings jettisoned and the second stage continued to fire until the 18 minute, nine second mark. The Cygnus separated from the Centaur second stage 21 minutes into the flight.
After the solar panels deploy, the spacecraft will carry out two days of correction burns that will allow it to match orbits with the ISS. On March 26, US astronaut and Expedition 47 Commander Tim Kopra with the assistance of ESA astronaut and Flight Engineer Tim Peake will use one of the station's robotic arms to capture the Cygnus and guide it to a docking berth on the Unity station module.
This is the second enhanced Cygnus cargo ship to visit the station and will be carrying a new EVA spacesuit, clothing, food, spare parts, and a number of experiments. These include a Gecko Gripper to test new adhesive technologies, the Stata-1 experiment to study the effects of microgravity on soils, an experiment to monitor the effects of meteor impacts on the Earth's atmosphere, the Saffire fire safety experiment, and two dozen nano satellites.
The CRS-6 Cygnus is named "S.S. Rick Husband" in honor of US Air Force Colonel Rick Husband, who was the last commander of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which was destroyed during reentry with the loss of all hands on February 1, 2003.