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John Glenn honored with launch of space station supply ship

NASA provided 1st live 360-degree view of Atlas V rocket launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A space station supply ship named for John Glenn is bound for orbit.

An Atlas rocket provided Tuesday's lift, just as it did for Glenn 55 years ago. The unmanned rocket took off in late morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The commercial cargo ship, dubbed the S.S. John Glenn, holds nearly 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of food, equipment and research for the International Space Station. It's due there Saturday.

Orbital ATK, one of NASA's main delivery services for the International Space Station, opted to use an Atlas V for this supply run from Cape Canaveral versus its own smaller, Virginia-based Antares rocket in order to haul up more items. The supply ship is known as the Cygnus after the swan constellation.

The shipper, Orbital ATK, asked Glenn's widow, Annie, for permission to use his name for the spacecraft, following his December death.

Glenn, an original Mercury 7 astronaut, became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. He launched again in 1998 aboard shuttle Discovery at age 77, the oldest person ever in space.

For the first time Tuesday, NASA cameras provided live 360-degree video of a rocket heading toward space.

The four fisheye-lens cameras are located at the periphery of the pad, about 300 feet (100 meters) from the rocket. A computer in a blast-proof box stitched together the images for a full, in-the-round view. 

It was shown on NASA's YouTube channel.

"It's great, I mean, to be able to get in there and experience that 360-degree view," said Vern Thorp, a program manager for rocket maker United Launch Alliance. Combining that with virtual reality goggles, "it really gives you a new perspective that we've never been able to do before," he said at a Monday news conference.