The next U.S. commercial spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station will launch under the name of the first American to orbit Earth, lifting off atop a modern version of the rocket on which he made history.
Glenn, who died in December at 95, famously circled the world three times aboard his Mercury capsule “Friendship 7″ before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 20, 1962. Thirty-six years later, after serving four terms as a Senator for his home state of Ohio, Glenn returned to orbit on space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest person to fly into space at the age of 77.
The S.S. John Glenn will fly on Orbital ATK’s OA-7 mission on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Fifty five years ago, the ship’s namesake leapt off Complex 14 on an Atlas-D, an early configuration of the intercontinental ballistic missile-turned-launch vehicle.
The OA-7 S.S. John Glenn launch is currently scheduled for March 19 at 10:56 p.m. EDT (0256 GMT March 20).
Orbital ATK uses Cygnus, launched on either ULA’s Atlas V or its own Antares rocket, to perform station cargo flights under a commercial resupply services contract with NASA. Cygnus consists of a pressurized module for crew supplies and experiments, together with a service module providing solar power and propulsion.
The OA-7 mission will be the third flight of a Cygnus atop an Atlas and fourth flight of the extended variant of Orbital ATK’s pressurized cargo module, which expands the ship’s interior volume capacity by 25 percent, enabling increased cargo to be delivered with each mission.
The S.S. John Glenn has already been packed with more than 7,500 pounds (3,400 kilograms) of cargo and science experiments for the station’s Expedition 50 crew, including an advanced plant habitat system and other research to be conducted in the U.S. National Lab ranging from targeted cancer cell therapies to growing crystals.