Food shipment launches towards International Space Station

The Antares rocket lifts off towards the International Space Station Credit: Steve Helber/AP

A fresh food shipment rocketed towards the International Space Station on Wednesday after launching from Virginia’s seashore.

Northrop Grumman’s C rocket blasted off from Wallops Island.

The company’s Cygnus capsule should arrive at the space station on Friday, just in time for Easter.

While there is no Easter ham or lamb, Nasa said plenty of cargo was going up for the space station’s six residents, including smoked turkey, pork chops and asparagus.

Altogether, more than 800 meals are tucked away.

The 3,450kg 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.

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

Northrop Grumman said it is honouring 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 the end of the month.

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.