Rockets in China, Russia, USA stand ready for space station missions

Orbital ATK's mechanical Cygnus cargo shuttle is planned to dispatch toward the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Atlas V for this mission was in the 401 configuration.

Large launch vehicles stand ready in three major space-faring nations on Tuesday ahead of missions to variously send astronauts and supplies to destinations in low Earth orbit. The mission will deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). (3,463 kilograms) of food, supplies and science experiments to the station. "This is the first time that this has ever been attempted and. we will review today's 360-degree setup and endeavor to bring this new perspective of a rocket launch to everyone in the future".

The Atlas V launch was delayed from March 24 after a hydraulic issue was discovered on ground support equipment.

But first, the capsule just has to get to the station. It should reach the ISS in about four days.

Along with some belated Easter baskets for the crew, the cargo also includes a number of key science experiments: one involves testing out a new antibody drug that could help make chemotherapy treatments more effective for cancer patients. That's because a pair of astronauts are scheduled to launch early Thursday morning on a Russian Soyuz rocket. It will rendezvous with the ISS on Saturday, April 22, where astronauts will use the robotic Canadarm2 to capture it and install it onto an ISS docking port. Capture is expected at approximately 6:05 am ET. The spacecraft will remain at the space station until July before its destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere, disposing of several thousand pounds of trash. But Orbital is fine with sending the Cygnus up on either vehicle, depending on what NASA needs, Culbertson said in a press conference yesterday.

The United Launch Alliance liftoff was the swan song for George Diller, the well-known voice of countdowns at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Tomorrow's mission of Orbital ATK is the seventh cargo run of the firm to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the company's $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida.

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