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20 April 2017, 05:26 | Bernard Bryant
Space station supply ship honors John Glenn
Liftoff from complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is targeted for 11:11 a.m. EDT (GMT-4), the opening of a 30-minute window.
It's launch day for a United Launch Alliance mission named after John Glenn, an astronaut and former USA senator who once rode into space on a predecessor of the rocket that launches today.
Orbital ATK asked Glenn's widow, Annie, for permission to use his name for the spacecraft, following his death. At age 77 he later flew a second mission to space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery- further cementing his status as a true American hero.
The countdown for today's launch of the 194-foot-tall two stage United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket began when the rocket was activated around 3 a.m.
"Liftoff of the Atlas Vrocket with Cygnus and the S.S. John Glenn, extending the research legacy for living and working in space", said United States space agency commentator George Diller.
The launch will give spectators a unique view of the launch pad - NASA is broadcasting the launch using 360-degree camera technology. The Atlas V 401 configuration rocket has flown 35 times, supporting a diverse set of missions, including national security, science and exploration, commercial as well as International Space Station resupply.
"The experiment lasts about two-and-a-half hours, of which 20 minutes is the actual burn of a fabric panel measuring 0.4 meters (yards) wide by one meter long".
"It's great, I mean, to be able to get in there and experience that 360-degree view", said Vern Thorp, a program manager for rocket maker United Launch Alliance, ahead of the launch.
Basically, NASA will deploy a trash-filled "Cygnus resupply vehicle" from the station, with the Saffire on board.
The Cygnus OA-7 spacecraft is loaded with supplies for the ISS crew and a number of cubesats, including many belonging to the QB50 project.
Rendezvous at the research outpost orbiting 250 miles overhead is planned Saturday morning, following Thursday's scheduled launch from Kazakhstan by a NASA astronaut and Russian cosmonaut who will join three Expedition 51 crew members.
The capsule also carries 38 shoebox-sized satellites and a high school student's science project that will test how telomeres, which are structures at the ends of chromosomes, are affected by microgravity.
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Given that Glenn flew on an Atlas rocket and Tuesday's rocket is an Atlas, "I feel like we're bridging history". The 19-story booster soared off its seaside launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:11 a.m.
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This is the fourth flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft, and the third using the Atlas V launch system. The 191-foot (58-meter) Atlas V lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:11 a.m.
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