7 Dec 2015

'Santa on his way' to astronauts

7:48 pm on 7 December 2015

A spacecraft carrying much-needed US supplies has blasted off towards the International Space Station.

Atlas 5 rocket waiting on the launch pad.

The Atlas V rocket left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The Atlas V rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday after three days of delays due to poor weather.

The capsule it is carrying, which is expected to arrive on Wednesday, will be the first US shipment to the station since April.

Supplies at the station are running low due to several failed delivery runs and botched rocket launches.

The capsule - Cygnus - carries more than 3500kg of food, clothing, computer gear, spacewalk equipment, science experiments and other supplies.

The station currently only has four months' food supply aboard. NASA aims to keep the supply cushion at six months.

"Santa is on his way!'" Tory Bruno, the president of United Launch Alliance, which made the rocket, announced via Twitter.

The six space station astronauts managed to photograph the rising capsule from their windows as both craft made their way over the Atlantic.

"Caught something good on the horizon," the station's commander Scott Kelly reported in a tweet.

Supplies at the station have been running low following several failed supplied runs.

The two private companies - Orbital ATK and SpaceX - contracted by NASA to deliver supplies to the station are both stuck with grounded rockets following launch accidents.

An Orbital rocket exploded on a supply run in October 2014, while SpaceX suffered a launch failure in June. Russia also lost a supply ship earlier this year.

Orbital bought another company's rocket, the veteran Atlas V, for this supply mission.


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