Antares launches cargo ship from Cygnus NG-16 space station
WASHINGTON – A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launched a Cygnus cargo spacecraft on August 10 carrying more than 3,700 kilograms of cargo for the International Space Station.
The Antares 230+ rocket lifted off from Pad 0A at the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island, Va., At 6:01 p.m. EST. The launch took place after a five-minute window due to a helium valve issue discovered during the countdown.
The NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft is expected to arrive at the ISS in early August 12, with a Canadarm2 robotic arm capture of the station expected around 6:10 a.m. EST. The arm will dock the spacecraft to the station’s Unity module.
The Cygnus spacecraft, named SS Ellison Onizuka after the deceased astronaut killed on the Challenger shuttle in 1986, carries 3,723 kilograms of cargo. This shipment includes station crew supplies as well as station equipment, such as equipment to support ongoing station solar panel upgrades.
Scientific investigations represent more than 1,000 kilograms of cargo on the Cygnus. One of those payloads is a Redwire experiment to test the use of simulated lunar regolith as a raw material for a 3D printer on the station, a technology that could be used in future lunar exploration. An experiment at Stanford University will look at the growth of muscle cells in microgravity to see if these cells can be used to test drugs to stop a condition of muscle loss known as sarcopenia.
Also on the Cygnus is an infrared camera called Prototype Infrared Payload, or PIRPL, developed by Northrop Grumman for the Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency. These organizations will use PIRPL to test technologies on future missile tracking satellites.
In a pre-launch briefing on August 9, Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager of tactical space systems at Northrop Grumman, said the PIRPL data will also be used by government agencies and universities “studying the environmental impacts “of volcanic eruptions and forest fires.
The Nauka investigation has just started
NASA approved the Cygnus launch plans during a launch readiness review on August 9 that also confirmed that the ISS was ready to accept the cargo spacecraft, a week and a half after the station temporarily lost attitude control when the thrusters of the new Russian module Nauka were triggered. three hours after docking.
NASA has said little about the July 29 incident since a media call hours later. Dmitry Rogozin, director of Roscosmos, told Russian media that “problems related to the algorithms of the guidance system” caused the incorrect firing of the thruster.
During the pre-launch briefing on August 9, Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS program manager, said the investigation into the incident was just beginning and offered no time frame to complete it. “The Russians are defining how they are going to move forward with this commission,” he said. “We have a team that I put together on the American side that will do the same.”
He added that he expected to get a better idea of the timeline for completing this investigation over the next two to three weeks. In the meantime, he said flight controllers and other members of NASA’s space station program are in regular communication with their Russian counterparts.