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Home / Science / The Antares rocket carrying time-sensitive cargo will be launched to the space station on Saturday-now for space flight

The Antares rocket carrying time-sensitive cargo will be launched to the space station on Saturday-now for space flight

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket emerged from a horizontally integrated facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on February 16. Image Credit: NASA / Patrick Black

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus Supply Ship (named “SS Katherine Johnson,” a pioneering NASA mathematician depicted as a “hidden figure”) in Virginia on Friday The launch pad was loaded with time-sensitive cargo and launched to the International Space Station at noon on Saturday.

On Friday afternoon, the last few items were sealed in the Mid-Atlantic Spaceport in the Velvet Cargo Ship, a Virginia-owned facility located on the same site as NASA’s Wallops flight facility. After loading the last batch of cargo, the ground crew plans to shut down the Cygnus capture device, reinstall the payload shroud of the Antares rocket, and raise the launcher vertically on the 0A pad of Wallops.

The final preparations throughout the night will also include the installation of the Antares rocket’s liquid oxygen loading line, and the deployment of pyrotechnic ammunition before the five-hour countdown begins, resulting in 12:36:50 pm Eastern Standard Time (1736 GMT: 50) Lift off Saturday.

The 139-foot (42.5-meter) Antares rocket has a five-minute launch window and will take off on Saturday. Forecasters at Wallops predict that there is a 75% chance that favorable weather will be launched, and the main weather problem is that wind and clouds may violate flight standards.

The mission was officially named NG-15, which was Northrop Grumman’s 15th supplementary operational launch to the space station since 2014. This will be the 14th flight of the Antares rocket.

Two Russian-made RD-181 rocket engines will power the Antares launcher with 864,000 pounds of thrust. The kerosene engine will steer the rocket from Wallops Island in Virginia to the southeast, in line with the orbit of the space station.

At approximately T + 3 minutes and 24 seconds, Antares will leave the first phase of the liquid fuel, followed by the separation of the rocket’s payload fairing and interstage adapter. The Castor 30XL upper burner with solid fuel will ignite in approximately T + 4 minutes, 7 seconds, for nearly three minutes to inject the Cygnus supply ship into the preliminary orbit to chase the space station. The cargo plane of Cygnus is planned to be deployed from the second phase of Antares, which will take about T + 8 minutes and 52 seconds.

Cygnus will release its two fan-shaped solar panels within a few hours of liftoff, allowing the spacecraft to begin a half-day space trip for the battery. Astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the research center will use a robotic arm made in Canada to capture the commercial supply ship at around 4:40 am Eastern Time (0940 GMT) on Monday, assuming that it will be launched on time on Saturday.

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket stands on the 0A pad of the spaceport in the mid-Atlantic area of ​​Virginia.Image Credit: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman named its Cygnus supply ship after a pioneer in spaceflight. The Cygnus in the NG-15 flight is named after the mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose trajectory calculations were crucial to the success of NASA’s earliest space missions.

“According to our tradition, each Cygnus is named after an individual who played a pivotal role in human space flight, and Mrs. Johnson was selected as her handwritten transcript, which helped to push the first Americans into space. And after her achievement in breaking the glass ceiling is the glass ceiling for black women,” said Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager of tactical space at Northrop Grumman.

The NG-15 mission’s cargo weight totaled 8,399 pounds (3810 kg), including packaging and unpressurized equipment to help deploy several CubeSats at the end of the flight. This is more than any previous commercial cargo mission to the space station.

NASA has signed contracts with Northrop Grumman, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada to provide supply flights for the station. To date, SpaceX has launched 21 operational Dragon missions. In the mission launched in April 2016, the record-breaking Dragon capsule payload was 6,913 pounds or 3,136 kilograms.

The “Dream Chaser” space plane in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has not yet flown in space. Its first cargo mission is to be carried out in 2022.

The following is the cargo details in the NG-15 task:

  • Vehicle hardware: 3115 lbs (1413 kg)
  • Scientific investigation: 2,484 lbs (1,127 kg)
  • Crew supplies: 2,054 lb (932 kg)
  • Pressureless freight: 176 lbs (67 kg)
  • Spacewalk equipment: 52 lbs (24 kg)
  • Russian hardware: 52 lbs (24 kg)
  • Computer resources: 2 lbs (1 kg)

A few minutes after releasing the Cygnus spacecraft to the space station, the Antares rocket will deploy 30 small “ThinSats” built by students from the container in the second phase. Each ThinSat is only the size of a loaf of bread, and integrates sensors, transmitters and circuit boards with students in 13 states and the District of Columbia, ranging in age from 4th grade to college.

The ThinSat program is between the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Administration (the organization that operates the Mid-Atlantic Spaceport), Northrop Grumman, Twiggs Space Laboratory, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and NearSpace Laboratory. Partnerships. The program aims to promote education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM fields.

In 2019, the first batch of 63 ThinSats satellites were launched on the Antares rocket. By launching micro-satellites in low-altitude orbits, engineers can ensure that ThinSats satellites naturally re-enter the atmosphere and burn within a few days, thereby minimizing the risk of becoming space junk.

Astronauts on the International Space Station will enter within a few hours of arriving on the Cygnus spacecraft on Monday. They will open the packages of experiments and supplies in the pressurized cabin of a cargo ship built by Thales Alenia Space, Italy.

Cygnus will provide a salt water processor component for the water circulation system of the space station, which converts urine into fresh drinking water. NASA said that this new type of salt water processor will show the ability to recover more water from urine and salt water, while the current space station equipment does not have this ability, which will help close the gap to meet the needs of humans on the moon. And long-term exploration missions to Mars.

The salt water processor uses a special membrane to separate the pollutants in the salt water and let the water vapor enter the cabin atmosphere. The condensate heat exchanger captures it and transports it to the platform system that produces fresh water.

NASA officials wrote in a fact sheet: “Long-term personnel exploration missions require a water recovery rate of about 98%, and there is currently no latest technology in salt water treatment that can help achieve this goal.” The processor system plans to close the gap in the urine flow of the space station.”

The Cygnus mission will also provide a new sleeping area for the seven-person crew of the space station. Currently, there are five crew members on the American portion of the US Space Station. Four astronauts flew to SpaceX’s “Crew Dragon” capsule outpost in November, and astronaut Kate Rubens arrived on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in October. .

But there are only four sleeping stations in the United States. Astronaut Mike Hopkins of the Crew Dragon mission sleeps in the SpaceX capsule docked at the space station.

Other hardware inside the Cygnus supply ship includes spare parts and support equipment for the space station toilets, and air tanks used to replenish the breathable atmosphere inside the space laboratory.

Mission patch for Northrop Grumman’s NG-15 mission, which includes illustrations of the Antares rocket, the Cygnus supply ship, and the International Space Station.Image Credit: Northrop Grumman

A research experiment of the NG-15 mission will study how microgravity affects the manufacture of protein-based artificial retinas. Nicole Wagner, President and CEO of LambdaVision, stated that the experiment was led by a Connecticut startup called LambdaVision. The experiment is a follow-up to the space station survey conducted in 2018, which produced “very encouraging “the result of.

The company uses a “layer-by-layer” process to manufacture artificial retinas, which can be implanted in patients with retinal degenerative diseases.

Jordan Greco, Chief Scientific Officer of LambdaVision, said: “This is the second of many flights we expect (to the space station).” “This particular layered experiment allows us to continue to gather key information about the system design and continue Explore the impact of microgravity on the stratification process.”

“What we are sending on NG-15 is to send protein materials. In fact, we will make artificial retinas on the ISS. So we do this process layer by layer on the International Space Station, and then put these movies back on Earth for analysis,” Wagner said.

Wagner said that, with NASA funding, LambdaVision is looking to expand the layer manufacturing process to other applications besides artificial retinas.

According to Wagner, the retinal implant developed by LambdaVision can restore the patient’s “high-resolution vision” by replacing the functions of the photosensitive rods and cone cells inside the eye. The artificial retina is composed of light-activated proteins.

Greco said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to produce products in low-Earth orbit that will bring real clinical benefits to patients, and in our case, lay the foundation for patients who have suffered blindness from this devastating retinal degeneration disease. .”

Another experiment of the NG-15 mission will measure the muscle strength of multiple generations of worms (including animals raised in space). Humans will lose power during long space missions, but scientists hope to better understand the biological changes caused by microgravity.

Siva Vanapalli, professor of chemical engineering at Texas Tech University and lead researcher of the experiment, said: “In order to understand biology, our project focuses on capturing these…worms and studying how the intensity of these worms changes. “

The experiment will start with 1,000 worm larvae during the mission. According to Wanapali, these worms will multiply their offspring in space.

A new device called NemaFlex will continuously measure the muscle strength of worms. Vanapalli said: “If we do observe that our equipment can record these intensity changes, it will open up huge opportunities for experimenting with different drugs and figuring out how to maintain and improve the health of astronauts.”

Cygnus will provide Hewlett Packard Enterprise with high-performance off-the-shelf commercial computers. According to NASA, engineers will test the computer’s ability to process scientific data in space, which may allow researchers to obtain faster results from their experiments.

The cargo mission also carries a radiation detector, which will fly on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said that the successful test of the radiation monitor on the space station will verify that the device can perform the Orion Orion second manned Orion mission Artemis 2 to the moon for the first time in 2023.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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