Northrop Grumman launches cargo ship to space station

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket propelled a Cygnus cargo ship into orbit on Saturday after a perfect launch from the east coast of Virginia, carrying more than 8,000 pounds of supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station.

The rocket’s two Russian-built RD-181 first-stage engines ignited at 12:36 p.m., accelerated to full throttle, and pushed the propellant skyward from platform 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport – MARS – in NASA’s Wallops Island Flight, Virginia. facilities.

Climbing directly into the plane of the space station’s orbit, the Antares 230+ rocket set off on a southeastern trajectory to initiate the 15th charge run of the company’s space station.

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket lifts off from Wallops Island, Virginia, on a flight to deliver more than 8,000 pounds of equipment, science supplies, and crew supplies to the International Space Station.


The ascent of the lower atmosphere went smoothly and after a two-minute, 45-second shot from the rocket’s second solid propellant stage, the freighter Cygnus was released to fly on its own, underway to reach the station on Monday. early. .

Along with research materials, spare parts and other equipment, the spacecraft will also bring fresh food to the station’s crew members.

“Some of the things we are shipping will include perishable items like Parmesan and cheddar cheese, apples and tomatoes, nuts and dried meats, and even some candy,” said David Brady, associate scientist for the space station program.

Also on board: smoked sockeye salmon with maple “for crew members who love fish.”

“We like to keep them happy because (it) helps them be more productive and allows us to do more science,” Brady joked.

The main objective of the Cygnus mission is to deliver scientific equipment and supplies for ongoing research using the microgravity environment aboard the space station.

One experiment will use tiny worms to learn more about how astronauts’ muscles lose strength in the absence of gravity, while another explores better ways to make retinal implants that could help people with degenerative vision disorders retain or improve vision. sight.

An advanced computer capable of processing and compressing data more quickly will be tested, and equipment will be installed to upgrade the station’s urine recycling system. Also on board: new radiation detectors to be used in future missions to the moon and beyond.

A few minutes before launch, the International Space Station flew directly over NASA’s Wallops Island Launch Facility, Virginia, where the Antares rocket and the Cygnus freighter awaited liftoff. The launch site is off the east coast of Virginia, just to the left of the lab’s robotic arm (visible to the right of this image).

Soichi Noguchi / NASA

“The ISS research is in full bloom right now,” said program scientist Heidi Parris. “There are hundreds of different experiments being carried out simultaneously on the International Space Station, and it is setting in motion the work of some of the brightest scientific minds in the world.”

The research, he said, “tries to improve our daily life on Earth and also continue to expand our abilities for future space exploration.”

If all goes well, the Cygnus spacecraft will arrive at the station early Monday. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and his crewmate Mike Hopkins will capture the cargo ship with the lab’s robotic arm. Flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston will take remote control to stop the spacecraft and dock.

“This vehicle is carrying more than 8,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station,” said Joel Montalbano, program manager for the station in Houston. “We have been talking to the crew on board (and) they are eagerly awaiting Cygnus’ arrival, and they are eager to open the hatch and get in and continue the science and research program that we have scheduled.”

Northrop Grumman names its Cygnus cargo ships after notable men and women who played pivotal roles in America’s space program. For Saturday’s flight, the spacecraft was named after Katherine Johnson, the late mathematician whose role in the early years of the space program played a central role in the film “Hidden Figures.”

“It is our tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a critical role in manned space flight,” said Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman. “Ms. Johnson was selected for her handwritten calculations that helped launch the first Americans into space, as well as for her achievements in breaking one glass ceiling after another as a black woman.

“She is an inspiration to many people, especially women of color, and she proved time and again that racial barriers and glass ceilings are breakable and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”


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