The private space firm tasked with transporting supplies to the International Space Station delayed a milestone launch on Wednesday because of unusually high levels of solar radiation.
Orbital Sciences, one of only two private firms contracted to deliver supplies to ISS, said in a statement that a solar flare Tuesday unleashed a level of radiation that could put its Antares rocket’s electronic systems at risk, Space.com reports. But the outburst, which registered as the strongest category of solar flares, does not put any of the six people on the ISS at risk, a NASA spokesperson told Space.com.
The space company has not scheduled a new date for the launch, which will be its first of eight contracted cargo missions to ISS and make it only the second private company, after Elon Musk’s Space X, to deliver supplies to the space station since NASA ended the Space Shuttle program. The launch from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia was initially scheduled for mid-December but had been pushed to Monday because astronauts on ISS had to perform emergency repairs on the cooling station, and then again rescheduled because of cold weather.
But while ISS awaits its supplies, the space station that has been continuously occupied since 2010 may have something to cheer for. The Orlando Sentinel reports that NASA plans to announce this week the White House has given the OK to extend the life of the space station by four years, to 2024. Congress and future administrations could still pull the plug, but the decision would breathe new life into what is considered the most expensive science project ever, surpassing $100 billion.