NASA Wallops launches rocket to Space Station Tuesday

Southeast Region

Wallops Island launch (WAVY.com photo)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (AP) –Northrop Grumman’s latest space station delivery includes pizza for seven.

The company’s Cygnus cargo ship rocketed away from Virginia’s eastern shore Tuesday. It should reach the International Space Station on Thursday.

The 8,200-pound (3,700-kilogram) shipment includes fresh apples, tomatoes and kiwi, along with a pizza kit and cheese smorgasbord for the seven station astronauts.

Also flying: a mounting bracket for new solar wings launching to the orbiting lab next year, a material simulating moon dust and dirt that will be used to create items from the space station’s 3D printer, slime mold for a French educational experiment called Blob and an infrared-detecting device meant as a prototype for future tracking satellites.

It is Northrop Grumman’s 16th supply run for NASA and its biggest load yet. The company’s Antares rocket hoisted the capsule from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

“Aloha to the S.S. Ellison Onizuka,” Northrop Grumman said via Launch Control minutes before liftoff. The capsule was named for Hawaii’s Onizuka, the first Asian American in space who died in the 1986 Challenger launch disaster.

NASA’s other shipper, SpaceX, will follow with a cargo run in a few weeks.

The space station is currently home to three Americans, two Russians, one French and one Japanese.

“This vital mission honors the legacy of Ellison Onizuka, whose commitment to the space program inspired many young pilots and whose work was integral to the advancement of human spaceflight,” said Gov. Ralph Northam. “Today, his work lives on with this launch carrying critical equipment and experiments to the International Space Station. The Commonwealth is committed to growing the aerospace industry as we work to help shape the future of space exploration. Developing space exploration efforts in Virginia has been a focus of our Administration from the start, and I am pleased to see the continued success of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.”

“Today, we launched an Antares rocket carrying technology that could allow us to build on the moon, experiments critical to maintaining the health and safety of crews during spaceflight, and a carbon dioxide removal system that could have significant benefits here on Earth,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “With each launch to the International Space Station, we are sustaining this unique international laboratory, supporting scientific exploration, and encouraging young people to pursue STEM careers.”

“NG-16 is another testament to the fact that Virginia Space has a viable, operational, and competitive spaceport,” said Virginia Space CEO and Executive Director Major General Ted Mercer. “Through our close partnership with NASA and Northrop Grumman, we are directly supporting the advancement of our nation’s space program. We are honored to be a party to these critical resupply missions and look forward to continuing our support to our Nation’s space customers.”

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