Liftoff sends Cygnus cargo ship into orbit

Cygnus-Atlas liftoff
United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket flashes to life on its Cape Canaveral launch pad, sending Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo capsule on the first leg of its journey to the International Space Station. (NASA TV)

Today’s launch of a robotic Cygnus cargo craft to the International Space Station was totally successful. But the first-ever live 360-degree video stream of a rocket launch? Not so much.

The good news is that more than 7,600 pounds of supplies and experiments are now on their way to the station aboard Orbital ATK’s cylindrical transport ship, which is named the S.S. John Glenn in honor of the late space pioneer and senator.

Among the payloads are more than three dozen nanosatellites and a new habitat for growing plants in the station’s weightless conditions, plus experiments to facilitate growing cell cultures and test anti-cancer drugs that activate the body’s own immune system. There’s also the latest in a series of experiments to study how things burn up in space.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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