NASA Says Northrop Grumman Cygnus Freighter Leaves ISS for Orbit Experiment
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said the Northrop Grumman Cygnus NG-16 freighter left the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday after three months in orbit.
The supply ship was undocked at 11:01 a.m. EST by order of the NASA Mission Control Center in Houston. russian news agency TASS said Matthias Maurer, a European Space Agency astronaut aboard the International Space Station, oversaw the undocking.
Cygnus will spend about a month in orbit demonstrating its thermal protection system before firing engines on December 15 to reenter the atmosphere. The spacecraft, which carries trash from the International Space Station, will burn the Earth’s atmosphere.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with the Cygnus refueling spacecraft on board, is launched from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
Cygnus freighter leaves ISS after three months in orbit, NASA
Cygnus brought over 7,500 pounds of abandoned cargo, SpaceRef noted. He will stay in the air for about four weeks to complete the secondary phase of the mission.
After his departure, Cygnus will perform side missions, including the Kentucky Re-Entry Probe Experiment (KREPE). This cargo will accompany Cygnus during re-entry and will be used to test a thermal protection system for spacecraft and their contents upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, which is difficult to imitate in basic simulations.
In a declaration, NASA noted that this new experiment “will show a thermal protection system for spacecraft and their cargo upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.”
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Cygnus docked at the ISS on August 12 with its largest cargo to date, weighing four tons. The SS Ellison Onizuka was named after the first Asian American astronaut, Ellison Onizuka, who died in the shuttle Challenger crash in 1986, and six other astronauts.
The mission delivered more than 8,200 pounds (3,720 kilograms) of supplies, equipment and experiments to the station, making it the largest cargo delivery by a Cygnus spacecraft to date. New equipment, a carbon dioxide scrubber to ensure breathable air, and equipment for the station’s upgraded solar panels were among the items delivered. A slimy mold (a brainless drop) and two payloads were used to study human muscle cells in orbit.
Since 2014, Northrop Grumman has launched 15 operational space station refueling missions. Orbital Sciences and Orbital ATK, eventually acquired by Northrop Grumman, were in charge of the previous flights.
Northrop Grumman vice president for civil and commercial space and tactical space systems Steve Krein said in a statement (via Espace.com) that “the Cygnus system has gone from a simple freight transport service to a high performance scientific platform”. “We continue to expand these capabilities, including the installation of environmental control systems and other upgrades to support the Lunar Orbit Housing and Logistics Outpost, or HALO “, says the press release.
The HALO project is a housing module for future Artemis astronauts from the Gateway space station proposed by NASA near the moon. Northrop Grumman designs the HALO module based on its Cygnus expertise.
A SpaceX Supply Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to fly in late December, will be the next US freighter to visit the space station.
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