Space station shipment launched from Virginia seashore

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A fresh grocery shipment rocketed toward the International Space Station on Wednesday after launching from Virginia’s seashore.

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket blasted off from Wallops Island. The company’s Cygnus capsule should arrive at the space station Friday, just in time for Easter.

While there’s no Easter ham or lamb, NASA said plenty of holiday fixings are going up for the space station’s six residents, including smoked turkey, pork chops, asparagus and cobbler. Altogether, more than 800 meals are tucked away.

The 7,600-pound (3,450-kilogram) load also included three free-flying robots to be tested as astronaut helpers, 40 black lab mice and 63 tiny student-research satellites.

Two of the cube-shaped Astrobee robots will be tested inside by the station crew, while the third — called Seeker and the size of a bread loaf — will wait until the Cygnus departs in July before being released and flying solo in orbit. The mice are part of tetanus-vaccine testing.

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This particular Cygnus is named the S.S. Roger Chaffee after the youngest of the three astronauts who died in the 1967 Apollo 1 spacecraft fire.

Northrop Grumman said it’s honoring Chaffee ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, because he made the ultimate sacrifice without ever reaching space.

Another space station delivery should be coming by month’s end. NASA’s other commercial shipper, SpaceX, is due to launch a shipment from Florida on April 26. SpaceX Dragon capsules have been making station deliveries since 2012 and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsules since 2013.

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