US cargo ship heads for space station with 3D printer

Washington: A private US cargo ship carrying a 3D printer, nanosatellites and an experiment to study fire in space blasted off on Tuesday night on an orbital delivery mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA, the US space agency’s TV broadcast showed.

The unmanned Cygnus spacecraft, operated by NASA commercial provider Orbital ATK, lifted off on an Atlas V rocket at 11.05 p.m. (0305 GMT on Wednesday) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the southern state of Florida.

This flight is Orbital ATK’s fifth official mission to the ISS for NASA under a commercial resupply services contract.

It is also the second flight for the enhanced version of Cygnus, which first flew in December on a successful return mission for the Virginia-based company.

Cygnus’ upgrade allows it to carry about 25 percent more cargo than previously after a resupply mission using the company’s own rocket exploded on the launch pad in October 2014.

This mission will deliver about 7,500 pounds (3,500 kg) of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory to support dozens of science and research investigations.

Cygnus also carries more than two dozen nanosatellites that will be ejected from either the spacecraft or the space station at various times during the mission to evaluate a range of technologies.