A SpaceX supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Friday, setting the stage for an Easter morning delivery and urgent spacewalking repairs later in the week.
Following its midday launch through cloudy skies, the Dragon cargo carrier was shown drifting away in the blackness of space.
It is transporting 2½ tons of goods, including a new spacesuit, spacesuit replacement parts, much-needed food, legs for NASA's humanoid, Robonaut, a bevy of mating flies, and germs gathered from sports arenas and historic sites across the U.S.
Neither NASA nor SpaceX packed any Easter goodies, but the families of the six astronauts sent private care packages.
"It will be a surprise for all of us when they open the hatch," said NASA's human exploration chief, Bill Gerstenmaier.
The Dragon will reach the orbiting lab on Sunday morning. That pushes urgent spacewalking repairs to Wednesday; NASA wants a bad backup computer replaced before something else breaks.
This was the second launch attempt this week for SpaceX after a month's delay. Initially set for mid March, the launch was delayed by extra prepping, then damage to an Air Force radar and, finally on Monday, a rocket leak.
Earlier, as the countdown entered its final few hours, NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini said an investigation continues into the reason for last summer's spacesuit failure. The helmet worn by an Italian astronaut filled with water from the suit's cooling system, and he nearly drowned during a spacewalk.
NASA is paying SpaceX — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — and Virginia's Orbital Sciences Corp. to keep the orbiting lab well stocked. It was SpaceX's fourth trip to the space station. Russia, Japan and Europe also make periodic deliveries.