WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A Northrop Grumman-built Cygnus cargo ship lifted off from Virginia on Saturday (Feb. 20), carrying important provides for astronauts on the Worldwide Area Station.
Perched atop a two-stage Antares rocket, the uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 spacecraft blasted off from Pad 0A on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility right here at 12:36 p.m. EDT (1736 GMT).
The craft is hauling greater than eight,200 lbs. (three,719 kilograms) of cargo that embrace scientific tools, contemporary meals and provides for the seven astronauts on board the house station. It is also filled with new hardware and spacewalk tools.
The 139-foot-tall (42.5-meter) Antares rocket lifted off proper on time, originally of a deliberate 5-minute window. It is Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship is named after Katherine Johnson, the trailblazing NASA mathematician who helped make John Glenn’s historic orbital flight — the primary by an American astronaut — doable. Now, 59 years later, the S.S. Katherine Johnson embarks on her personal flight to house on the 59th anniversary of Glenn’s Friendship 7 Mercury flight.
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The NG-15 mission is Northrop Grumman’s 15th operational resupply launch to the house station since 2014 and marked the 4th Antares to fly within the 230+ configuration.
The rocket’s first stage is powered by two Russian-made RD-181 engines fueled by rocket-grade kerosene, producing 864,000 kilos of thrust at liftoff. The primary stage separated from the rocket’s higher stage simply over three minutes into flight.
Shortly after, the payload fairing jettisoned, leaving the Cygnus uncovered to house. Powered by a solid-fueled higher stage, the Cygnus was deposited in its preliminary orbit and able to start its journey to the house station. The cargo craft will spend two days chasing down the orbital outpost earlier than berthing to the station with the assistance of a robotic arm.
Astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Company will seize the vessel on Monday (Feb. 22) at about four:40 a.m. EST (0940 GMT), with NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins serving as backup. The craft will stay on the station for about three months, after which it should detach itself and deplete upon reentry into the Earth’s environment.
Northrop Grumman makes each the Antares rocket and the Cygnus spacecraft. The corporate has a practice of naming its spacecraft after fallen heroes who’ve made a major contribution to human spaceflight.
On this case, the corporate is selecting to honor the late Katherine Johnson, who died at the age of 101 nearly a year ago on Feb. 24, 2020. Johnson labored as a human pc whose trajectory calculations have been essential to NASA’s early success with human spaceflight, particularly Glenn’s orbital flight.
“It’s our custom to call every Cygnus after a person who’s performed a pivotal function in human spaceflight, and Mrs. Johnson was chosen for her hand-written calculations that helped launch the primary Individuals into house, in addition to her accomplishments in breaking glass ceiling after glass ceiling as a Black girl,” mentioned Frank DeMauro, vice chairman and common supervisor for tactical house at Northrop Grumman mentioned on Friday (Feb. 19).
Years after her retirement, Johnson’s work was highlighted within the e-book “Hidden Figures,” and later the movie of the same name starring Taraji P. Hensen as Johnson. Johnson acquired a congressional medal of freedom and the congressional gold medal from President Barack Obama for her work at NASA.
Tucked contained in the Cygnus is a bevy of time-sensitive cargo objects, together with a provide of contemporary meals for the astronauts on the house station. Throughout a prelaunch briefing on Friday, NASA officers mentioned they have been sending up some treats for the crew members of Expedition 64, together with salmon, arduous salami, parmesan cheese, caramel arduous candies and different perishable objects.
“We need to preserve the crew glad, as a result of a cheerful crew is a productive crew for science,” David Brady, affiliate program scientist for the Worldwide Area Station, mentioned previous to launch.
Additionally contained in the Cygnus is a brine processor meeting for the house station’s water recycling system, which converts urine into fresh drinking water. NASA says the brand new processor will allow extra water to be recovered from urine than with the present tools on station. The company says it is a key piece of hardware to assist meet the necessities for future long-duration missions to the moon and ultimately Mars.
“Lengthy-duration crewed exploration missions require about 98% water restoration, and there may be at present no state-of- the-art expertise in brine processing that may assist obtain this purpose,” NASA officers wrote in a fact sheet. “This brine processor system plans to shut this hole for the urine waste stream of the house station.”
The tools works by utilizing particular membranes to separate contaminants from the brine, permitting water vapor to move into the cabin environment, the place a condenser will seize it and filter it into the station’s water system.
Additionally onboard the Cygnus can be a brand new sleeping pod for the Expedition 64 crew. At the moment there are 5 astronauts within the U.S. phase — 4 Crew-1 astronauts who launched in November on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon, and Kate Rubins who flew on a Soyuz final October — with solely 4 sleep stations. Hopkins, the Crew Dragon commander, has been sleeping within the capsule since launching in November. Three Russian cosmonauts spherical out the station’s crew.
Cygnus is also ferrying spare components and tools for the house station’s bathrooms, and tools for upcoming spacewalks.
The bevy of analysis experiments introduced up on the NG-15 mission will researchers to higher perceive how microgravity impacts the human physique in addition to manufacturing processes. One investigation will have a look at the development of protein-based artificial retinas on station.
Designed by LambdaVision, the experiment will use a layer-by-layer course of to fabricate synthetic retinas in house. The hope is that the “retina” can then be implanted into the attention of a affected person affected by degenerative retinal illnesses similar to retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration.
One high-tech experiment aboard is the Spaceborne Computer-2, a collaboration by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Microsoft to carry cloud computing and synthetic intelligence expertise to the Worldwide Area Station. Microsoft will hyperlink its Azure Space Platform to the pc to “ship edge computing and [artificial intelligence] capabilities” to the station, based on HPE.
One other experiment will measure muscle energy in a number of generations of worms, to higher perceive the organic adjustments that occur throughout spaceflight. Led by Siva Vanapalli, the experiment will have a look at how the muscle energy in worms adjustments extra time throughout spaceflight.
About 1,000 worm larvae are en path to the house station, tucked contained in the Cygnus as a part of the Micro-16 investigation. As soon as on station, the worms will produce many offspring throughout their journey, permitting researchers to have a look at a number of generations. They’re additionally sending a tool known as NemaFlex, which is designed to measure how a lot pressure the worms exert.
Vanapalli is hoping that the machine will allow the crew to measure adjustments within the worm’s energy which could be helpful to drug improvement in addition to assist researchers enhance astronaut well being.
Additionally on board the Cygnus are a number of scholar experiments together with the Magnitude.io experiment that can assist interact college students in STEM tasks with the assistance of bitmoji stickers. The experiment, called ExoLab 8, is Magnitude.io’s eighth investigation despatched to the house station.
Mission members (which is able to embrace college students from Kindergarten via school stage) will try to develop purple clover crops at dwelling and of their school rooms to behave as a floor management experiment, and examine development charges to related crops grown in house.
On-line actions can be led by an Astro_moji trainer — Linwood Elementary Expertise trainer, Lisa Turney. Her likeness can be was a bitmoji who will educate college students from house by way of her bitmoji avatar. The experiment will depend on a SpaceTango CubeLab that can facilitate plant development.
“We’re taking distance studying to an entire new stage: 250 miles above the Earth to an orbital classroom,” Magnitude.io CEO Ted Tagami wrote in a news release. “Whereas the pandemic disrupted many studying experiences, our mission members will bear in mind 2021 because the 12 months they went to house.”
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