From Wallops Island, VA atop an Antares rocket with Cygnus spacecraft at 5:56 PM Est
This evening NASA sent up 8,200 pounds of cargo and dozens of scientific experiments to the International Space Station onboard the Cygnus NG-16. This is the sixteenth flight of the Northrop Grumman robotic resupply spacecraft and the fifteenth to the ISS. It is also now the fifth flight of the 230 variant of the Antares rocket. Two days from the the craft will dock with the space station and remain for up to one hundred days attached, with another thirty possible days orbiting Earth.
Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems and NASA joined forces to develop the Cygnus spacecraft to be launched atop the Antares rocket, the largest of all Northrop Grumman rockets to provide commercial cargo resupply services to the ISS. Antares is considered a medium class launch vehicle and can provide up to 864,000 pounds of thrust to lift the 574,700 pounds it weighs loaded down with fuel and the capsule with cargo attached. That capsule, Cygnus is comprised of two primary components, the pressurized cargo module and the service module. This craft is aptly named after the first Asian American astronaut Ellison Onizuka who tragically died in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster. S.S. Ellison Onizuka was launched via the Antares 230 rocket from Virginia Space’s MARS (Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport) pad 0A located on Wallops island.
Once the spacecraft arrives at the International Space Station astronaut Megan McArthur will be prime on catching Cygnus capture spacecraft with the Canadarm2, backed up by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Here’s a break down of what all the cargo being ferried upwards consists of. 3,078 pounds of crew equipment, 33 pounds of spacewalk equipment, 2,346 pounds of scientific research experiments, 2,286 pounds of vehicle hardware, 98 pounds of computer hardware, and 106 pounds of unpressurized cargo. Once safely docked cargo will began to be unloaded by astronauts onboard the ISS where Northrop Grumman and SDA (Space Development Agency) will commence and experimental mission called the PIRPL (Prototype Infrared Payload). This will begin collecting infrared date that will define possible by expanding detection capabilities. The data gathered is hoped to aid in the development of algorithms for the next generations of tracking satellites.
Another notable experiment is being call From Dust to Dorm. Using a 3D printer to build structures and habitats out of resources available on the Moon and Mars can potentially reduce the launch mass and costs significantly. Scientists are hoping to use loose rock and soil found of the surfaces of planetary bodies to mold into a 3D printable material.
The Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment is aiming to develop a facility for collecting date about a two phase flow and heat transfer in microgravity. Hoping to use data from microgravity and Earth’s gravity are needed to validate numerical simulation tools to aid in designing thermal management systems that are needed for longer space missions. These longer missions will need more power, and more power means more heat. That heat will need to be dissipated, this is where transitioning to a two phase management system can reduce size and weight to remove that heat more efficiently. Currently we use single phase heat transfer systems which use a liquid such as water or ammonia to remove heat from one location and move it to another. A two phase system for example can use that heat to boil water and change it into a vapor.
A few pieces of notable hardware being brought up such as the CEBAA (Commercial Crew Vehicle Emergency Breathing Air Assembly, FSE (Flight Support Equipment) and Air RTA (Recharge Tank Assembly) are all critical hardware that support the building of the second set of emergency air supply for the commercial crew vehicles, which can support as many as five astronauts for up to one hour during and emergency onboard the International Space Station. There is also the OGA (Oxygen Generator Assembly) which is a vital spare to a support oxygen of the crew on board the ISS. There are also brand new Nadir and a side scratch panes which are upgraded acrylic scratch panes that provide improved optics and visuals for the crew when using the cupola.
Today’s launch had a forecasted 80% favorable conditions and those conditions held true as we saw a beautiful summer day up here on Wallops Island with very few clouds in the sky. This is the 79th overall cargo delivery to the International Space Station and conditions could not have been much better. A slight breeze kept the day from being too hot and boaters weren’t an issue like they often can be from this launch site. Come lift off Those two Russian RD-181 engines that power the rocket ignited beautifully, burning for all of their planned two-hundred-fifteen seconds before separating from the second stage and returning to Earth and falling into the Atlantic Ocean. Just after four minutes into flight the second stage using it’s Castor-30XL solid rocket motor ignited with all it’s 107,00 pounds of thrust for it’s planned one-hundred-fifty-six second duration. With that now the Cygnus spacecraft will orbit Earth for two days before it docks that Canada arm will reach out and grab it on August 12th.