Space station accepts first Virginia delivery in two years

October 23, 2016 by Marcia Dunn
This photo provided by NASA TV shows the Cygnus resupply ship, above, slowly approaching the International Space Station before the Canadarm2 reaches out and grapples it, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Once the Cygnus is unloaded, it will be filled with trash and set loose to burn up in the atmosphere in mid-November. (NASA TV via AP)

The International Space Station received its first shipment from a private, Virginia-based company in more than two years Sunday following a sensational nighttime launch observed 250 miles up and down the East Coast.

Orbital ATK's cargo ship pulled up at the space station bearing 5,000 pounds of food, equipment and research.

"What a beautiful vehicle," said Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi, who used the station's big robot arm to grab the vessel. The capture occurred as the spacecraft soared 250 miles above Kyrgyzstan; Onishi likened it to the last 195 meters of a marathon.

Last Monday's liftoff from Wallops Island was the first by an Antares rocket since a 2014 launch explosion. Orbital ATK redesigned its Antares rocket and rebuilt the pad. While the Antares was grounded, Virginia-based Orbital ATK kept the NASA supply chain open with deliveries from Cape Canaveral, Florida, using another company's rocket.

NASA is paying Orbital ATK and SpaceX to stock the station, but now SpaceX is grounded. The California company is investigating why one of its Falcon rockets exploded in a massive fireball during launch pad testing on Sept. 1.

Following liftoff, Orbital ATK's Cygnus capsule orbited solo for twice the usual amount of time. NASA wanted the Cygnus—named after the swan constellation—to wait for three astronauts to launch from Kazakhstan. They arrived Friday, doubling the size of the crew. Besides Onishi, the crew includes two Americans and three Russians.

Helping Onishi with the Cygnus on Sunday morning was NASA astronaut Kate Rubins. Their four-month mission will end next weekend.

This particular Cygnus, meanwhile, is officially known as the S.S. Alan Poindexter. Orbital ATK named it after a former commander who helped to build the station. He was killed in a jet ski accident in 2012.

Once the Cygnus is unloaded, it will be filled with trash and set loose to burn up in the atmosphere in mid-November.

Explore further: First launch for Orbital's Antares rocket since '14 blast

More information: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

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Walter_Mrak
1 / 5 (1) Oct 23, 2016
The matter within the cargo ship along with the remains of the material that the cargo ship is comprised of add to the pollution of the planet and possibly pose a direct threat to unsuspecting
populations depending on the "elements" that drop on them. This is so reflective of the age old
human attitudes that we have been trying to improve upon during the last half century. A little
push might be enough to provide momentum to get the spent asset outside earth's gravity on course to the sun until its gravity pulls it to final vaporization upon impact... consequence-free.
qquax
5 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2016
@Walter_Mrak

This would have to be a mighty big push. The space station is low earth orbit, to reach escape velocity would require a huge amount of additional fuel.

BTW there is no reason for the cargo ship to contain any toxic material (e.g. heavy metals) Chances are that burning the same amount of coal in your closest conventional power station will produce much more pollution than the controlled burn of the cargo ship upon reentry.
Eikka
5 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2016
A little
push might be enough to provide momentum to get the spent asset outside earth's gravity on course to the sun until its gravity pulls it to final vaporization upon impact... consequence-free.


Due to conservation of momentum, it takes a whole lot of rocket fuel to actually hit the sun. A "little push" will just put the object in orbit around the sun slightly lagging behind earth, and once the earth has caught it up by a full rotation, it's going to get pulled right back in, or the earth will slingshot it away from the sun into an elliptical orbit.

The worst case scenarion would be that the piece of trash ends up on a highly elliptical orbit around the sun and later hits the earth from a high angle instead of a low angle entry, which would mean the debris can end up all the way to the surface before burning up. Less atmosphere to travel through.

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