Once again, high wind is keeping space station supplies stuck on Earth.
An unmanned rocket loaded with 7,400 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station — the first U.S. shipment in months — was grounded by dangerous gusts Saturday. It was the third weather delay in a row.
Launch director Bill Cullen called off the attempt three hours in advance. Technical troubles had bumped the late afternoon launch time to the last possible moment in the window; given the high odds of excessive wind, there seemed little reason to proceed.
The next try — No. 4 — comes Sunday afternoon. The weather is expected to improve, but still only 40 percent favorable.
NASA is anxious to get its commercial supply chain moving again. Its two suppliers are grounded because of launch accidents dating back to 2014, and the space station pantry needs restocking.
Shipper Orbital ATK is using another company’s rocket, the venerable Atlas V, for this grocery run. But even the Atlas is no match for Mother Nature.
Besides food, Orbital’s Cygnus cargo carrier contains clothes and toiletries for the six space station residents, as well as spacewalking gear, air-supply tanks and science experiments. Christmas presents also are on board.
In orbit, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly had to endure some teasing from his identical twin back home about the repeated delays.
Mark Kelly is a retired astronaut as well as an author; his “Mousetronaut” and “Mousetronaut Goes to Mars” are among seven storybooks inside the Cygnus. The picture books are part of an astronaut-in-space reading program for children.
Following Friday’s delay for potentially dangerous gusts, Mark said in a tweet, “Sorry @StationCDRKelly, you’ll have to wait one more day until you can read ‘Mousetronaut’!”
“I don’t know what I anticipate more, #Mousetronaut or the new #StarWars movie,” Scott shot back via Twitter.
Kelly is making NASA’s first yearlong mission. On board since March, he’ll be up there until the beginning of this coming March.