Saturday, February 27, 2021
Feb. 27, 2021

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Space station launch honors mathematician

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Northup Grumman's Antares rocket lifts off the launch pad at NASA's Wallops Island flight facility in Wallops Island, Va., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. The rocket is delivering cargo to the International Space Station.
Northup Grumman's Antares rocket lifts off the launch pad at NASA's Wallops Island flight facility in Wallops Island, Va., Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. The rocket is delivering cargo to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) (Steve Helber/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A space station supply ship named after the Black NASA mathematician featured in the movie “Hidden Figures” rocketed into orbit Saturday, the 59th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic launch.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsule — dubbed the S.S. Katherine Johnson — should reach the International Space Station on Monday following its launch from Virginia’s eastern shore.

Johnson died almost exactly a year ago at age 101.

“Mrs. Johnson was selected for her hand-written calculations that helped launch the first Americans into space, as well as her accomplishments in breaking glass ceiling after glass ceiling as a Black woman,” Frank DeMauro, a Northrop Grumman vice president, said on the eve of liftoff. “A homework assignment for all of you is to go watch that movie after the Cygnus launch.”

Johnson’s numbers contributed to the Feb. 20, 1962, flight in which Glenn became the first American to orbit the world. Contributions to the success of Glenn’s flight by Johnson and other Black women were depicted in the 2017 film. They worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., 100 miles from the launch site at Wallops Island.

Northrop Grumman launched the 4-ton shipment for NASA in the early afternoon from Wallops, where temperatures were just above freezing.

This will be the space station’s second delivery in less than a week.

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