Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft approaches the International Space Station in 2016. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
It’s maybe not the prettiest spacecraft, its barrel form extra operate than kind. Like a truck, it hauls cargo to the International Space Station that’s unloaded by astronauts who then fill it with trash, turning it as a large area rubbish can. When filled with refuse, it falls again to Earth and is ignominiously incinerated within the ambiance.
But Orbital ATK has mbadive ambitions for its Cygnus spacecraft, and can quickly get to show what it could actually do. On Saturday morning, the Dulles-based firm is scheduled to launch Cygnus aboard its Antares rocket from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. On the mission, Cygnus will probably be carrying 7,400 kilos of meals, clothes and experiments to the orbiting station, some 240 miles above the Earth.
But this time, the spacecraft will probably be greater than a cargo and trash hauler; it might grow to be a short-term room on the area station, giving the astronauts one other 27 cubic meters to do their work. On this flight, the Cygnus will probably be outfitted in order that it might be capable to badist science experiments and different badysis on the orbiting laboratory.
“We’ve always considered to be part of the ISS, and that’s certainly true physically, but now we’ll be doing it functionally,” mentioned Frank DeMauro, the overall supervisor and vice chairman of the corporate’s Advanced Programs division.
The step is a part of an effort by Orbital ATK to ultimately flip Cygnus right into a habitat that might badist NASA discover deep area, together with the area across the moon generally known as cislunar area. The firm has a contract from NASA to proceed turning it right into a habitat for astronauts that might join with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, giving astronauts extra room.
Cygnus received’t be the one non-public sector module connected to the area station. For months, Bigelow Aerospace’s BEAM, an inflatable habitat, has been affixed to the station as a part of a check program to see how the expertise works. Bigelow can also be growing a habitat that might be a lot bigger and will function a business outpost in area.
In addition to carrying cargo to the station, Cyngus could have 14 small satellites on board. After it serves as short-term area, the spacecraft will detach and fly about 50 km above the station to deploy the satellites. Then, filled with trash, it can plunge again towards Earth, burning up within the ambiance.
The launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is scheduled for Saturday at 7:37 a.m.