Antares rocket launch launches space station replenishment mission – Spaceflight Now

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launched on Saturday from the NASA Wallops aircraft complex in Virginia. Credit: Alex Polimeni / Spaceflight Now

Northrop Grumman launched a cargo flight from the East Coast of Virginia on Saturday with the first-stage Antares launch vehicle, designed and built in Ukraine, which was a successful start to a mission to deliver food, experiments and supplies to a crew of seven on the International. .

Russian-made RD-181 twin main engines revived and propelled a 139-foot (42.5-meter) Antares rocket from Site 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia.

The gas-fired overclocking stage stopped and rose from the Virginia coastline on Saturday at 12:40:03 EST (17:40:03 GMT), moving along a trajectory to the southeast to align with the space station’s flight path.

The first-stage RD-181 engines produced more than 860,000 pounds of thrust in the first three minutes of flight before stopping and shutting down to give way to a solid-propellant top-of-the-range missile. The upper stage caught fire after nearly a minute of landing to accelerate to orbital speed.

Top-level Antares deployed Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo plane nearly nine minutes after the explosion, and NASA confirmed hours later that the spacecraft had deployed its two fan-shaped solar panels, a key milestone to start generating electricity for 40 hours. station.

A series of engine burns will lead the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station, culminating in the capture of the spacecraft’s robotic-arm spacecraft at 4:35 a.m. EST (9:35 a.m. GMT) on Monday. NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kyle Barron will control a Canadian-made robot to grab the Cygnus power ship, and ground crews will control a hand to tow the spacecraft to the lower port of the Unity station module, where it will stay for more than three months.

Dean Cantella, NASA’s International Space Station Program Integration Manager, said cargo missions such as the Cygnus Replenishment Flight were “critical to the research that makes the International Space Station an incredible research institution.”

“Of course, cargo flights also provide supplies for the crew and critical maintenance crews, as well as equipment to make the changes needed for the ISS to support the new science,” Cantella said in an interview with NASA.

“For example, this particular flight of research that is planned includes studies of the drug’s effects on cancer cells,” she said. “We have research on skin aging, plant growth. We are considering new hydrogen sensors. This science provides direct benefits to those on Earth, as well as to future human space crews and future space flights. ”

The mission, known as NG-17, also has a modification kit to prepare for the arrival of a new pair of upgraded solar panels on the space station in the upcoming SpaceX cargo flight. There is also a garbage disposal system that will allow garbage to be dumped from the Nanoracks airlock.

“Regular cargo missions are the lifeblood of the ISS supply chain to continue research, especially as we continue to expand the station until 2030,” Cantella said.

This Cygnus mission is also debuting with a new opportunity to exceed the height of the space station, a service exclusively provided by Russia since the launch of the space shuttle in 2011.

“This Cygnus car has been modified to allow the ISS to reboot to use some of its fuel in the vehicle itself,” Cantella said. “Before that, we conducted a test with Cygnus, but this will be our first real use of this feature to actually reboot the station. And that gives us another way to do it, in addition to Russian engines or Progress cargo spacecraft.

File a photo of the Cygnus spacecraft on the International Space Station during the previous mission. Author: Oleg Skrypochka / Space

The Cygnus cargo spacecraft will be the second cargo spacecraft to arrive at the space station less than a week after the successful docking of the Russian Progress MS-19 spacecraft into the complex on Thursday.

The Cygnus mission will deliver more than 8,300 pounds (about 3,800 pounds) of cargo to the space station. Here is a breakdown of the NG-17 cargo manifest:

• 2,980 pounds (1,352 kilograms) of crew supplies

• 2,883 pounds (1,308 kilograms) of vehicle technology

• 1975 pounds (896 pounds) of research

• 200 pounds (100 kilograms) of cargo without pressure

• 132 pounds (60 kilograms) of equipment for space travel

• 77 pounds (35 pounds) of computer resources

NASA has multibillion-dollar contracts with Northrop Grumman, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp. for the transportation of cargo to and from the space station. Northrop Grumman’s two replenishment contracts cover 19 operational cargo missions until 2023, and the next two Antares / Cygnus launches are scheduled for August and April 2023.

The Cygnus spacecraft, flying as part of the NG-17 Northrop Grumman mission, is named “SS Piers Sellers” in honor of the space shuttle astronaut and NASA climatologist who died of cancer in 2016.

Along with spare parts and equipment to keep the space station running, the Cygnus cargo ship has more than a ton of research equipment.

The experiments, which are sent to the space station as part of the NG-17 mission, include an investigation to study designed human skin cells to assess how they change in microgravity. Deterioration of skin tissue is a normal part of aging. Similar changes occur in the human body in space, but they occur much faster.

Researchers will study skin cells in space in hopes of using them as a model to evaluate products to protect against skin damage from aging on Earth.

The Cygnus mission will also conduct a combustion experiment on the space station to assess the flammability of various types of materials that could be used in future space missions, such as human expeditions to the moon and Mars.

There is also a demonstration experiment of technology to evaluate new sensors that can better detect hydrogen, which is formed as a by-product of the space station’s oxygen production system.

Another experiment will consider the use of hydroponic, or water, and aeroponic, or aerial methods for growing plants on a space station. Astronauts have so far used conventional soil to grow vegetables at the station, but hydroponic and aeroponic systems may offer advantages in size and weight for future missions into outer space.

The Cygnus spacecraft will also be launched with a Japanese technology demonstration of a new lithium-ion battery that can be used in future space missions, as well as CubeSats for deployment from the space station module and outside the Cygnus cargo ship itself in the next few months.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1. Antares rocket launch launches space station replenishment mission – Spaceflight Now

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