CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - A Virginia company makes its debut this week as a space station delivery service, and the lone American aboard the orbiting lab is counting on a fresh stash of chocolate.
In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg said she can't wait for this weekend's arrival of a new cargo ship named Cygnus. It will be the first shipment by Orbital Sciences Corp. to the International Space Station.
"You know that there's something packed away in that vehicle, something special for you ... We're human beings and we get very excited about the packages from home and some of the treats that we might get," said Nyberg.
Orbital Sciences is scheduled to launch an unmanned Antares rocket containing Cygnus on Wednesday morning from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore. It's where NASA launched a moon spacecraft 1 1/2 weeks ago.
NASA is paying Orbital Sciences and the California-based SpaceX company to keep the space station well stocked in the shuttle-less era.
Orbital Sciences conducted a practice Antares launch in April with a mock payload. This will be its first space station run, coming more than a year after the initial SpaceX delivery.
Because this is considered a test flight, the Cygnus will carry up mostly food and other nonessential items. That suits Nyberg and her two male crewmates -- an Italian and a Russian. They have been in orbit since the end of May, with two more months to go. Three more residents arrive later next week.
Nyberg's husband -- NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley -- put together the care package that's already stowed on the Cygnus capsule. They have one child, 3-year-old Jack.
"It would be really nice to have some fresh home-baked goods, but the fresh part doesn't work very well when it takes a couple days to get here," Nyberg said. "So anything chocolate usually does it for me."
Given a Wednesday launch, the Cygnus should arrive at the space station on Sunday. Unlike the SpaceX Earth-returning Dragon, it will be filled with trash and, once cut loose, burn up during descent.
Russia, Europe and Japan also send up supplies.