NASA’s commercial shipper, Orbital ATK, launched the cargo ship just after sunrise from Wallops Island, aboard an unmanned Antares rocket.
The Cygnus capsule should reach the orbiting lab Tuesday. It’s loaded with 7,400 pounds of cargo — including lots of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and frozen fruit bars, for the six station astronauts.
This marked Orbital ATK’s first launch from its home turf in more than a year. The last time it made a space station delivery, it used another company’s rocket flying from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Crowds gathered at Wallops on the chilly morning — temperatures hovered near freezing — and cheered as the rocket soared toward the southeast. Sunrise made it hard to see the launch farther afield. The field of visibility stretched from New England to the Carolinas.
A launch attempt on Saturday was nixed after a plane strayed into the restricted airspace. Sunday’s try was almost foiled by a couple of boats that briefly wandered into the keep-out zone.
Orbital ATK named the capsule after the last man to walk on the moon, Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan, who died in January. During the final minutes of the countdown, a launch controller paid tribute to Cernan as well as J.R. Thompson, a high-ranking NASA and Orbital ATK official who died last week.
SpaceX is NASA’s other prime supplier. It’s making a station delivery next month.