Supply ship named for John Glenn arrives at space station

A space station supply ship named for John Glenn is bound for orbit. It was third of those launched by ULA's Atlas V, which can lift heavier loads than Orbital ATK's own Antares rocket based on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

The unmanned rocket is poised to blast off at 11:11 a.m. from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a commercial cargo ship named the S.S. John Glenn.

The Cygnus spacecraft is packed with 7,626 pounds (3,459 kilograms) of crew supplies, hardware, and dozens of experiments aimed at studying fire, growing food, and cancer therapies.

NASA's shipper, Orbital ATK, asked Glenn's widow, Annie, for permission to use his name for the spacecraft, following his December death.

Glenn, the former US senator who died last December at 95, inspired multiple generations when he became the first American in orbit at the dawn of the Space Race with the Soviet Union, and later the oldest person in space as a 77-year-old crew member aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1998. He launched again in 1998 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery at age 77, becoming the oldest person ever to travel in space. It rocketed from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday with almost 7,700 pounds of food, experiments and other goods.

Another honor Tuesday for John Glenn, the space pioneer and former U.S. Senator from OH who died in December, 2016. A new, larger greenhouse is flying up, along with equipment needed for a spacewalk next month.

"It is an honor to launch this spacecraft", said Vern Thorp, ULA program manager for commercial missions.

Tuesday's launch will also be the first time, cameras will provide live 360-degree video of a rocket heading toward space. NASA said it would try again, perhaps on an upcoming SpaceX delivery mission.

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.

SpaceX and Boeing are developing new capsules that could fly USA astronauts to the space station as early as next year. His was the voice at liftoff for the final space shuttle flight, by Atlantis, in 2011, as well as the send-off of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 and all five Hubble-servicing missions - hundreds of rocket launches in all.

Diller said his time at the space agency has been a "heck of a ride".

  • Carolyn Briggs