Northrop Grumman is ready to launch a mission to replenish the space station – Spaceflight Now

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launches on February 15 on Wallops Island, Virginia. Author: NASA / Brian Bonstyle

The Antares rocket and the Cygnus spacecraft are scheduled to launch Saturday as part of Northrop Grumman’s 17th replenishment mission to the International Space Station, which carries more than 8,000 pounds of research experiments and cargo from a launch pad in Virginia.

The ground crews of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at NASA’s Wallops spacecraft on the east coast of Virginia, spent Friday loading time-sensitive cargo into the Cygnus spacecraft at the launch pad. Once the final loading of the cargo was completed, the teams began steps to close the front hatch on the Cygnus cargo ship and install the top of the rocket’s nose cone.

Technicians at the 0A launch pad planned to raise the vertical of the 139-foot-tall Antares missile (42.5 meters) overnight in preparation for the start of the five-hour countdown. The takeoff is scheduled for 12:40 p.m. EST (5:40 p.m. GMT) on Saturday, opening a five-minute launch window.

Weather forecasters predict a 75% chance of good weather for the Antares rocket launch on Saturday.

Two Russian-made RD-181 engines, which burn gas and liquid oxygen, will run for 3 minutes 18 seconds to send the Cygnus cargo ship into space. The Antares rocket will get rid of the first stage, the payload fairing and the interstage adapter before starting the solid propellant engine of the second stage Castor 30XL for launching the Cygnus spacecraft into orbit.

The upper stage of the Antares will deploy the Cygnus spacecraft in pre-parking orbit at T + plus 8 minutes 49 seconds. The Cygnus spacecraft will deploy its fan-shaped solar panels for the first few hours of the mission.

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, expected to launch Saturday.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kyle Barron train in capturing the Cygnus cargo spacecraft at the space station’s robotics workstation. Author: NASA

NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kyle Barron will control a robot-arm space station built in Canada to catch the unmanned Cygnus spacecraft, which floats just 30 feet or is 10 meters below the complex.

The ground teams will control the robot to move the Cygnus spacecraft to the mounting point on the Unity space station module, where it will be located for about three months.

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, designated NG-17, will deliver more than 8,300 pounds (about 3,800 kilograms) 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.

The Cygnus spacecraft, which flies as part of the Northrop Grumman NG-17 mission, is named after Pierce Sellers, an astronaut and NASA research scientist who died of cancer in 2016. Northrop Grumman has announced that the spacecraft will receive the nickname “SS Piers Sellers” ahead of launch this weekend.

Ours for the NG-17 mission. Credit: Northrop Grumman

The NG-17 mission will carry equipment for the space station’s life support systems and ancillary equipment to prepare for the arrival of new retractable solar panels on the space station in the future SpaceX cargo mission. New solar panels are smaller and more efficient than existing ones that age and degrade solar panels.

The Cygnus spacecraft will deliver a deployer from Nanoracks to the space station’s dump and recycling facility through Bishop’s commercial airlock.

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 technical demonstration of a new lithium-ion battery that can be used in future space missions, as well as two CubeSat for deployment from the Kibo space station module and outside the Cygnus cargo ship itself in the next few months. .

Email Author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1. Northrop Grumman is ready to launch a mission to replenish the space station – Spaceflight Now

Back to top button