Cygnus takes off to ISS, Feb 15

Cygnus takes off to ISS, Feb 15

Heidi Parris, assistant program scientist for the ISS program at NASA, during a Feb 8 pre-launch briefing at the Wallops Flight Facility, remarked, “We’re really excited for a lot of the science that Cygnus is bringing up. Cygnus is a huge enabler of continuing the science on ISS.”

FREMONT, CA: On Feb 15, a Cygnus cargo spacecraft launched. It carried over three tons of supplies and experiments for the International Space Station.

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket took off from Pad 0-A, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport carrying a Cygnus spacecraft on a mission designated NG-13, at 3:21 p.m. Eastern. The Cygnus, now positioned in orbit, is scheduled to captured by ISS’s robotic arm at 4:05 a.m. Eastern, on Feb 18.

Though the launch was scheduled for Feb 9, it was scrubbed less than three minutes before the liftoff due to off-nominal data from ground support equipment. Again, because of upper-level winds, NASA and Northrop Grumman held back a second launch attempt on Feb 14.

The Cygnus, named after the first African-American astronaut S.S. Robert Lawrence Jr., is carrying 3,337 kilograms of cargo. The cargo on the spacecraft includes nearly 1,600 kilograms of vehicle hardware, about 1,000 kilograms of science payloads while crew supplies and other equipment constitute the rest.

The payloads comprise science experiments to study the effects of microgravity on bacteriophages, which are viruses that attack bacteria, and also research on the growth of bone cells. The spacecraft is carrying Mochii, the first scanning electron microscope for use in space, developed by Seattle-based organization Voxa for supporting station research.

 Heidi Parris, assistant program scientist for the ISS program at NASA, during a Feb 8 pre-launch briefing at the Wallops Flight Facility, remarked, “We’re really excited for a lot of the science that Cygnus is bringing up. Cygnus is a huge enabler of continuing the science on ISS.”

 ColKa, a new communication system, is incorporated in Cygnus’ hardware. It will provide increased bandwidth by communicating through the European Data Relay System satellites. A new external high-definition camera onboard is on the way to replace a similar, failed camera during a spacewalk scheduled for the spring.

The spacecraft is scheduled to stay at the station until May. Then, it will depart with nearly 3,700 kilograms of trash for disposal. It will execute Saffire-4, the latest in a series of combustions, to test how materials burn in microgravity with varying amounts of oxygen.

The previous Cygnus cargo mission, NG-12, was held on Nov 2. The next Cygnus mission is scheduled for October but may vary depending on the schedule of commercial crew missions. Post-April, ISS will have only American astronaut, Chris Cassidy, until Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner or SpaceX’s Crew Dragon starts sending astronauts to the station.

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