NASA resumes space-station missions on Thursday

Posted Dec 3, 2015 by Nathan Salant
Commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station are expected to resume Thursday with the launch of a Orbital ATK Cygnus capsule from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
TAKEOFF: Photo shows Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida  where a plann...
TAKEOFF: Photo shows Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where a planned resupply mission to the International Space Station is expected to be launched Thursday.
NASA/Wikimedia Commons
The launch atop an Atlas V rocket, if successful, would be the first commercial satellite launch in the United States since June, when a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launch failed.
Orbital's resupply missions have been grounded since last year, when the company's Antares rocket exploded at a launch pad in Virginia, according to the Associated Press.
SpaceX plans to resume flights in January, the news service said.
Thursday's launch is scheduled to use a Saturn V rocket purchased from United Launch Alliance, a commercial competitor.
The Cygnus capsule will carry 7,400 pounds of food, clothes, equipment, science experiments and children's books, meant to bolster an astronaut-reading project for kids, to the six space-station astronauts, the AP said.
Many of the experiments are intended to replace those built by kids that were destroyed in previous accidents.
"We want to take them what they need," Orbital executive Frank Culbertson, a former NASA astronaut, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Antares rocket program manager Mike Pinkston said he was nervous but confident about his company's resumption of space station missions, which he said had been Orbital's "very, very sharp focus" since the launch accident.
"You're always a little nervous, but highly confident," Pinkston told the AP.
Orbital plans another resupply mission using an Atlas rocket in March, still using Russian-built engines, after which the Antares rocket will be returned to service, the AP said.
NASA opened the resupply missions to private companies following the retirement of its widely known space shuttles.
Culbertson was in orbit aboard the space station and was the only U.S. resident who was not on the planet during the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001.