A commercial Cygnus cargo freighter packed with 3.8 tons of medical and pharmaceutical experiments, technology demonstration hardware, CubeSats, food and supplies. An Antares rocket into orbit from Virginia's Eastern Shore is Wednesday afternoon on the first leg
The 139-foot-tall (42.5-meter) Antares rocket lit two Russian-made petrol-fueled RD-181 main engines and climbed away from launch. pad 0A at Wallops Island, Virginia, at 4:46:07 pm EDT (2046: 07 GMT) Wednesday after a smooth countdown.
The two-stage launcher quickly rose from the launch pad overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, clearing four lightning masts in seconds as the first stage's hydraulic steering system was engaged to direct the rocket
The twin-engine first stage generated 864,000 pounds of thrust at full power and fired for 3 minutes, 35 seconds, before shutting down and dropping away to fall into the Atlantic After a short coast, the Antares rocket's solid-fueled second stage was ignited to send the Cygnus supply ship to the orbit.
Northrop Grumman's telemetry commentator confirmed the on-target separation of the 15,940-pound (7.230 kilogram) Cygnus spacecraft around nine minutes after liftoff, and officials announced the launch a success.
"Beautiful day, a fantastic launch," said Joel Montalbano, NASA's deputy program manager for the International Space Station. "It's great to have another cargo vehicle on its way to the International Space Station."
In the first, the Antares rocket carried 63 tiny student-built ThinSats as secondary payloads on the second stage. Stranded together in groups of three or six, the ThinSats are each about the size of a slice of bread containing solar cells to generate power, data transmitters and sensors to measure such parameters as temperature and pressure.
The Antares upper stage deployed The ThinSats a few minutes after the Cygnus spacecraft – the mission's primary payload – separated from the rocket.
Using standardized form factor, children from middle school to university students integrated the sensor and transmitter hardware on ThinSats with the support of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, Twiggs Space Lab, Northrop Grumman, and NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.
"My whole passion in the industry and in academia is kids' education," said Bob Twiggs, co-inventor of the CubeSat and the ThinSat "I've really turned on by being able to do something in space, and if you can get these kids turned on, boy, you've got to step out of the road, or they're going to run right over the top of you.
"So doing something like this at a cost that you can get down into elementary schools … I think is really great."
Students from 70 schools in nine states contributed to ThinSats launched Wednesday. The ThinSats launched into a orbit with a peripheral or low point of 125 miles (201 kilometers). At that altitude, an aerodynamic drag will quickly cause the tiny spacecraft to fall back into the atmosphere and burn up, likely within five or 10 days.
A slightly larger spacecraft, or CubeSat, named SASSI ^ 2 separated from the Antares rocket's upper stage with the ThinSats. Short for the Student Aerothermal Spectrometer Satellite of Illinois and Indiana, SASSI ^ 2 carries a tool from the University of Illinois and Purdue University to measure pressure, heat flux and spectral data as CubeSat encounters aerodynamic resistance in the upper atmosphere before it burns up on re
The Cygnus spacecraft activated its communications, propulsion and guidance and navigation systems moments after deploying from the Antares rocket, according to Frank DeMauro, vice president of Northrop Grumman's space division.
The cargo freighter completed two orbit- raising burns shortly after separation from the Antares second stage, putting the spacecraft on course to arrive at the space station early Friday. The Cygnus also unfurled its two fan-shaped solar arrays to begin generating power, DeMauro said in a post-launch press conference.
The craft completed two initial orbit-raising maneuvers autonomously using the ship's on-board navigation computer, demonstrating a new capability that allows the Cygnus to reach the space station in just over 36 hours instead of more standard two or three days.
"We are going from launch to being on ISS about a day -and-a-half, and one of the things that allows us to get there so quickly is those targeted altitude burns, "DeMauro said.
Using position fixes from GPS satellites and laser range data, the Cygnus supply ship will fly is an autopilot during the final phase of Friday's rendezvous with the space station. The spacecraft should be in a capture position about 30 feet (10 meters) below the station by 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT), when astronaut Anne McClain will use the Canadian-built robotic arm to grapple the Cygnus cargo freighter, which Northrop Grumman christened on the "S.S. Roger Chaffee "in honor of the astronaut who perished with Gus Grissom and Ed White in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967.
The robot arm will place the Cygnus on the Earth-facing berthing port of the station's Unity module, where the spacecraft will remain for about three months, allowing the station astronauts to unload the equipment from its pressurized cabin and replace the cargo with trash for disposal.
The mission of the Cygnus, launched Wednesday, designated NG-11, is 7,575 pounds (3,436 kilograms) of A cargo, including a new flying robot that could help astronaut with chores on the space station, medical experiments, and 40 mice to be studied by astronauts and researchers to examine how their immune systems deal with the conditions of the spaceflight.
Around 6.971 pounds ( According to NASA's tally, the Cygnus spacecraft's cargo module, built by Thales Alenia Space in Italy. The NanoRacks CubeSat deployer will release three small nanosatellites after the supply ship will depart from the space station.
After the release of the station's robotic arm in July, the cargo craft will boost itself into a higher orbit for the deployment of the CubeSats, similar to the maneuvers accomplished by previous Cygnus missions. But instead of commanding the spacecraft to plunge back into the atmosphere for destructive re-entry, Northrop Grumman ground controllers will oversee months of additional in-orbit experiments.
A package of four control moment gyroscopes is installed on board the Cygnus spacecraft for the extended mission experiment.
The innovation will allow the Cygnus spacecraft to remain in orbit for up to a year. Cygnus missions have previously lasted no more than three or four months.
"We will use the control moment of gyros to control the spacecraft's attitude, as opposed to fuel," DeMauro said in an interview with Spaceflight Now before Wednesday's launch. 19659003] Northrop Grumman officials previously said that the extended mission demo could last a year, but DeMauro said that the mission's duration will depend on when engineers accomplish all their goals.
"How long we go really will depend on when we achieve our goals for The extended mission (demonstration), "DeMauro said.
" We want to accomplish a couple of things, "he said. "First, we want to show how the spacecraft works with CMGs (control moment gyroscopes) and demonstrate that our platform can use CMGs – not only our platform but other Northrop Grumman spacecraft platforms
" The second thing we want to do It's a show that the avionics can run for extended periods of time, "DeMauro said. "We've typically run them for several months, as we've gone through testing, and then in orbit they run for three to four months, depending on how long we're on the orbit. This time, we want to demonstrate an even longer period of time that the computers run error-free, and that the attitude control system works just as expected. "
The control moment gyroscopes were built by Honeywell, using the new miniature technology that
Northrop Grumman wants to keep the NG-11 Cygnus spacecraft in orbit through the launch of the company's next resupply mission to the space station designated NG-12, currently scheduled for October.
] Officials want to offer the future Cygnus spacecraft as a hosting platform for science and technology experiments after it leaves the space station. DeMauro said the Cygnus spacecraft provides a smooth microgravity environment for research in the orbit, even better than the space station, which has disturbances from the crew members movement and other external influences. The use of gyroscopes will make for more pristine microgravity conditions, eliminating impulses from thruster firings to change the ship's orientation.
"The idea is that for future missions, we can outfit Cygnus to have extended duration, and then after we complete the main mission, offer this extended duration to either government or commercial entities, "DeMauro said in a Tuesday interview with Spaceflight Now. "It's critical that we have the ability to fly two Cygnus (spacecraft) in the orbit at the same time."
Like the past Cygnus
The mission of NG-11 is the last flight of Cygnus under the Northrop Grumman's first cargo transportation contract with NASA, a deal Originally signed in 2008, now worth $ 2.89 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office. The company has a follow-on Commercial Resupply Services, or CRS-2, a contract for at least six additional Cygnus missions through 2024, starting with the mission of NG-12 later this year.
"Our push is to offer NASA increased science Capability on each mission, "DeMauro said.
For the first time on the mission of the NG-11, ground teams at Wallops loaded a time-sensitive cargo into the Cygnus spacecraft at the launch pad for less than 24 hours before liftoff. Northrop Grumman developed a new Mobile Payload Processing Facility, or a clean room, to place the Antares rocket's payload shroud after the launcher was lowered back to a horizontal position following preliminary pre-launch checkouts.
Technicians removed the top of the payload fairing , known as the "pop-top", and opened the Cygnus hatch to allow teams to load the enclosure containing the rodent research experiment along with a bio-analyzer experiment and other items. The NG-11 launch Wednesday also debuted a new navigation system on the Antares rocket, which is based on the " ahead of additional launcher upgrades coming with the first CRS-2 mission later this year.
Engineers will be up the Antares rocket's structure for the next mission to allow the first stage's twin RD-181 engines to remain at full throttle as launcher. Flies through the most extreme period of aerodynamic pressure, or Max-Q, after liftoff.
Northrop Grumman is also removing some unnecessary insulation from the inside of the castor 30XL upper stage motor casing and switching from a three-piece fairing adapter to a lighter single-piece structure. Future Antares rockets will also fly with two less helium pressurization bottles in the first stage.
The RD-181 engines will also launch without heat exchangers, which are designed to heat helium gas in flight. Northrop Grumman officials say the heat exchangers are not being used by the Antares rocket.
The upgrade rocket will be known as the Antares 230+.
The Antares rocket can flood into orbit by up It's 1,763 pounds (800 kilograms), according to Kurt Eberly, vice president of the Antares program at Northrop Grumman.
"That will allow us to pack even more cargo into the cargo modules," DeMauro said. "We've made some more modifications to be able to pack it more efficiently.
The Cygnus team has taken a step-by-step approach with upgrades since the launch of the spacecraft's inaugural mission.
Since the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft's first missions in 2013, engineers from Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems – formerly known as Orbital Sciences and the Orbital ATK – have introduced a larger Thales-built cargo module and debuted new RD-181 engines for the Antares first stage. Officials replaced the Antares rocket's original AJ26 first stage engines after one of the powerplants failed in the 2014 launch, destroying a Cygnus spacecraft heading to the space station and damaging the launch pad at Wallops Island.
DeMauro said the expanded performance and longer lifetime Of the newest generation of Cygnus ships supplying the spaceship space missions for more demanding missions in the future, including flights to a deep space to support NASA's plans to build a mini-space station called the Gateway on the lunar orbit, with the goal set by the Trump administration of landing astronaut on the moon as soon as 2024.
"Going out to the cislunar space will be a little bit different," DeMauro said. "
Northrop Grumman has a NASA contract to develop a habitat concept based on the Cygnus design, which could be attached to NASA's Gateway around the moon to provide living space for an astronaut. Lunar landers could be staged at the Gateway for trips to and from the moon's surface.
"We think we're in a good place to offer NASA a proven yet upgraded technology suite on a Cygnus-class vehicle to provide all sorts of services in the cislunar space, whether it's habitats, logistics services, science and utilization services, as well as even power and propulsion systems out there. DeMauro said: "We can even expand that further and be part of the system to put people on the moon itself," said DeMauro.
Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. ., which was purchased by Northrop Corp. in 1994 to form Northrop Grumman, built the Apollo lunar landers.
"If you look at that expertise, and you combine it with our expertise with Cygnus, we know there is a lot of capabilities out there that we will go to take advantage of, "DeMauro said. "So we have every expectation that we will play a big role, not only in supporting the crew that goes out to the moon, but being able to design, build and deliver something that actually bring people down to the moon, so we 're so excited about that future.'
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