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After Weeks of Delay, Orbital Cargo Launch Announced

Dec 30, 2013 04:43 PM EST
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After weeks of delay, a resupply mission headed to the International Space Station by the aerospace firm Orbital Sciences Corp. has received the launch date of Jan. 7.

Originally planned for Dec. 18, the shipment of nearly 3,000 pounds of cargo was delayed after the pump module on one of the space station's two cooling loops shut down automatically after reaching its preset temperature limit Dec. 11. The malfunction never posed any immediate danger to the crew, but did result in the powering down of several non-critical systems.

Flight engineers Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, both from NASA, removed the pump module Dec. 23 during a more than 5-hour spacewalk, replacing it two days later in a spacewalk that lasted more than 7 hours. Once installed, flight controllers in the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center restarted the system that same day. Although the new module was fully functional, the system required time to reintegrate the new module and the loop it's tied to.

The upcoming launch of Orbital's Cygnus cargo spacecraft is scheduled to take off aboard Orbital's Antares rocket, a two-stage vehicle designed to carry medium-class payloads weigh up to nearly 13,500 pounds.

Besides science equipment, crew provisions and spare parts, the cargo capsule is stocked with 23 student experiments ranging on topics from amoeba reproduction to calcium in salamanders' bones.

Weather permitting, the launch may be visible for residents throughout the mid-Atlantic region from New York City to North Carolina. Those looking to catch a glimpse of the launch can also watch live coverage here.

The launch will mark Orbital's first mission following a successful trial carried out in September as part of a $1.9 billion contract between the firm and space agency. 

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