Antares rocket launch kicks off space station’s next commercial cargo delivery – Spaceflight Now

Antares rocket launch kicks off space station’s next commercial cargo delivery – Spaceflight Now

Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket lifts off from pad 0A on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia. Credit: Alex Polimeni/Spaceflight Now

An Orbital ATK Antares rocket streaked into orbit early Monday from Wallops Island, Virginia, with a commercial Cygnus cargo craft carrying a quantum analysis experiment, an investigation into the properties of concrete in space, contemporary meals and different provisions for the International Space Station’s six-person crew.

The two-stage launcher ignited its two Russian-made RD-181 foremost engines at four:44:06 a.m. EDT (0844:06 GMT) Monday, and the Antares rocket lifted off a number of seconds later from pad 0A on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Riding a column of flame from its kerosene-fueled twin-engine first stage, the 139-foot-tall (42.5-meter) Antares rocket climbed by damaged cloud layers and pitched southeast over the Atlantic Ocean after liftoff, which occurred 5 minutes later than scheduled to permit for threatening clouds to maneuver out of the launcher’s flight path.

Liftoff was beforehand pushed again from Sunday to permit for higher climate and extra time for pre-flight inspections.

The two RD-181 engines, producing a mixed 864,000 kilos at full throttle, powered the rocket and its provide ship payload downrange from the Virginia launch base, positioned on NASA property on the Wallops Flight Facility on the Atlantic shoreline.

The first stage, manufactured in Ukraine, switched off and jettisoned round three-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, then the Antares rocket launched a shroud overlaying the Cygnus spacecraft earlier than igniting a solid-fueled, U.S.-made higher stage to ship the logistics provider and its 7,385 kilos (three,350 kilograms) of cargo into orbit.

The automated provide ship separated from the Antares higher stage round 9 minutes into the mission, then unfolded two fan-shaped photo voltaic panels to start out producing electrical energy, and carried out its first orbit-raising burn to begin a three-day pursuit of the space station, kicking off Orbital ATK’s ninth resupply run to the worldwide analysis facility.

The Cygnus spacecraft is ready to reach on the space station early Thursday. Astronaut Scott Tingle will take command of the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm to grapple the provision ship round 5:20 a.m. EDT (0920 GMT) Thursday, and floor controllers will maneuver the cargo car to a berthing port on the Harmony module for a virtually two-month keep.

Ground groups loaded 7,205 kilos (three,268 kilograms) of and provisions into the Cygnus spacecraft’s pressurized compartment, constructed by Thales Alenia Space in Italy. The breakdown of cargo aboard the mission launched Monday, often known as OA-9 in Orbital ATK’s flight sequence, contains:

  • 2,626 kilos (1,191 kilograms) of auto
  • 2,251 kilos (1,021 kilograms) of science investigations
  • 1,788 kilos (811 kilograms) of crew provides
  • 291 kilos (132 kilograms) of spacewalk gear
  • 220 kilos (100 kilograms) of pc assets
  • 29 kilos (13 kilograms) of Russian

A commercial deployment platform supplied by NanoRacks, a Houston-based firm that brokers alternatives for researchers to ship their experiments into space, is mounted exterior the Cygnus spacecraft to launch six tiny CubeSats in orbit after the provision ship departs the space station in July.

The NanoRacks deployer, and the CubeSats contained inside, weighs round 181 kilos (82 kilograms), giving the OA-9 mission a complete “upmass” of seven,385 kilos (three,350 kilograms), in response to a NASA truth sheet.

The Antares rocket lifts off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Monday. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Once Cygnus arrives on the station, astronauts will unpack gear stowed inside the provision ship’s inside compartment, transferring to storage areas and analysis racks housed inside lab modules on the orbiting outpost.

Scientists plan to make use of one of many experiments launched aboard the Cygnus provide ship to discover the character of ultra-cold matter, probing the habits of atoms chilled to excessive temperatures colder than the vacuum of space.

The Cold Atom Laboratory, developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will spend no less than three years serving as a platform for quantum experiments.

“Right there in the name is the word cold,” stated Eric Cornell, a Nobel Prize winner in physics and principal investigator one of many investigations that may use the Cold Atom Laboratory. “Way down in the heart of that thing … we hope to get to temperatures of something less than 1 nano-Kelvin, so we intend to get within a billionth of a degree of absolute zero.”

The chilling circumstances contained in the Cold Atom Laboratory will gradual the motion of atoms till they’re virtually immobile, forming Bose-Einstein condensates, a low-energy state of matter the place atoms change into synchronized and exhibit traits of a single steady wave, reasonably than particular person particles, in response to NASA.

Research into Bose-Einstein condensates on Earth are restricted by the consequences of gravity, which causes atoms to settle to the bottom in a fraction of second. In space, high-resolution imagers contained in the Cold Atom Laboratory might observe the habits of the condensates for as much as 10 seconds in free fall, permitting scientists to probe their properties and examine elementary quantum mechanics that might discover purposes in miniaturized expertise, atomic clocks and quantum computer systems.

“If you want to be able to design the technology that’s going to underpin the economy of tomorrow, you have to understand quantum mechanics,” Cornell stated. “It’s true that quantum mechanics is the science of the very, very small. But due to sort of a twist of fate, it’s also the science of the extraordinarily cold.”

Scientists will command the Cold Atom Laboratory from the bottom whereas the crew sleeps, minimizing interference and accelerations from astronaut exercise that might masks the ability’s exact quantum measurements.

This sequence of false-color photos reveals the formation of a Bose-Einstein condensate within the Cold Atom Laboratory prototype at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory because the temperature will get progressively nearer to absolute zero, the temperature at which atoms have virtually no movement. Red in every determine signifies increased density. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Another science experiment launched Monday will examine the solidification of cement in microgravity.

“We are looking into colonizing space,” stated Aleksandra Radlinska, principal investigator for the cement experiment from Penn State University. “We want to go to the moon and deep space beyond, and we will need shelters for the human missions. We will need to protect equipment from radiation effects and impacts that these could experience.”

Concrete could possibly be a “go-to” materials to construct such shelters, she stated.

“In our research, we actually look into how cement reacts with water, and how this very complex process of microstructure formation happens in space,” Radlinska stated.

Despite the prolific use of concrete, the method of solidification when mixing cement and water “has been fascinating scientists for the last 50 years,” she stated. “And for the last 50 years, despite the current technology and instrumentation that we have, we still don’t understand that process completely.”

Radlinska’s workforce despatched up a number of pouches with cement and water for astronauts to combine on the space station. The samples will come again to Earth for comparability with the outcomes obtained from comparable pouches combined on the bottom, in response to Juliana Neves, a graduate researcher on the experiment at Penn State.

The investigation will finally assist handle two questions, Radlinska stated: “How can we use it more sustainably on Earth, and how can we make usage of raw materials present in space and make a concrete-like cement binder in space?”

A commercially-developed machine launched aboard the Cygnus mission Monday will take a look at a technique of separating liquids in microgravity for Zaiput Flow Technologies, a Massachusetts-based firm. The mechanism will use floor stress, as a substitute of gravity as used on Earth, to separate water from an natural solvent, demonstrating a technique that could possibly be employed by future expeditions synthesizing chemical compounds in space or on one other planet to provide water and rocket gas.

The Cygnus provide ship may even ship gear for astronauts to put in exterior the space station on a spacewalk scheduled for June 14, and engineers will reveal the primary use of a brand new communications system that may enable the station crew to determine radio hyperlinks with Cygnus through the ultimate strategy Thursday.

The similar proximity communications system can be utilized by Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew automobiles as they rendezvous with the orbiting advanced.

Nine CubeSats packaged contained in the Cygnus pressurized cabin can be transferred into the station’s Japanese Kibo lab, the place astronauts will place them in an airlock for retrieval by a robotic arm, which is able to place the nanosatellites for launch into orbit within the coming months.

The 9 CubeSats set for launch from the space station are:

  • CubeRRT, a 6U CubeSat developed at Ohio State University with NASA funding to check a brand new sign processor to mitigate radio interference impacting microwave radiometer measurements of soil moisture, atmospheric water vapor, sea floor temperature and winds from orbit.
  • EQUiSat, a 1U CubeSat developed by Brown University with NASA help as an academic outreach mission, with a secondary goal of demonstrating a brand new sort of battery in space.
  • HaloSat, a 6U CubeSat developed on the University of Iowa in partnership with NASA to detect X-ray fuel emissions across the Milky Way galaxy.
  • MemSat, a 1U CubeSat developed at Rowan University in partnership with NASA, will take a look at a memristor machine that could possibly be flown on future satellites to make them extra vitality environment friendly and extra resilient to energy failures.
  • RadSat-g, a 3U CubeSat developed at Montana State University in partnership with NASA, will take a look at a brand new radiation tolerant pc system.
  • RainCube, a 6U CubeSat developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will reveal the viability and efficiency of a brand new expandable Ka-band precipitation radar that may be packaged right into a quantity to slot in a nanosatellite.
  • TEMPEST-D, a 6U CubeSat developed at Colorado State University in partnership with NASA, is a threat mitigation mission for a deliberate constellation of Earth remark CubeSats that may observe the steps within the formation of clouds, precipitation and storms.
  • EnduroSat One, a 1U CubeSat developed in Bulgaria, carries an newbie radio payload.
  • Radix, a 6U CubeSat owned by a commercial firm often known as Analytical Space, will take a look at a laser communications terminal deliberate to be used on a future constellation of orbiting information relay nanosatellites to allow high-speed optical downlinks to Earth.
Artist’s illustration of the RainCube spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Cygnus spacecraft is called for J.R. Thompson, the former chief working officer at Orbital Sciences Corp. who died final 12 months. Thompson served in a number of administration positions at Orbital, overseeing improvement of the Antares rocket and different automobiles within the firm’s launcher household.

He had a prolonged profession at NASA earlier than becoming a member of Orbital Sciences, together with stints because the space company’s deputy administrator and as director of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Thompson was supervisor of the space shuttle foremost engine improvement mission at Marshall within the 1970s, and he beforehand served as a liquid propulsion techniques engineer on the J-2 engine that flew on the Saturn 5 moon rocket.

Before the Cygnus spacecraft’s deliberate July 15 departure from the station, it will conduct a quick maneuver to reboost the analysis lab’s orbit. It would be the first time a commercial U.S. cargo car has tried a space station reboost, a functionality at the moment solely supplied by Russian spacecraft.

Visiting space shuttles and Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle additionally supplied reboost companies earlier than their retirement.

The orbit-raising maneuver will solely nudge the space station right into a barely increased orbit, and mission planners have penciled within the reboost demonstration for a time when the analysis advanced is already within the correct orientation for the maneuver, quickly after the docking of a Russian Progress cargo freighter in early July.

At that point, the Cygnus spacecraft’s foremost engine, which faces Earth throughout many of the ship’s keep on the space station, can be aligned roughly parallel with Earth’s floor with the station’s course of journey, or velocity vector.

“We’ll test it out and see if it works, and it definitely opens up options for us in the future,” stated Kirk Shireman, NASA’s space station program supervisor on the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We’ll continue to have to reboost. The station is reboosted several times a year, and at the end of life, we’ll have to deboost the station, and of course, you have to do that very carefully. It’s a very large station, and we want to put it in at a specific place over the planet. We’ll need a lot of capability at that time as well.”

“Our team is excited,” stated Frank DeMauro, vice chairman and basic supervisor of Orbital ATK’s superior applications division. “We hope to be able to do that test toward the end of our stay on the ISS, and hopefully that’s another aspect of Cygnus that NASA can use in the future.”

After leaving the space station, Cygnus will hearth its engine to climb into the next orbit, to an altitude of roughly 310 miles (500 kilometers), for deployment of six extra CubeSats.

The ultimate CubeSat deployments embrace 4 “Lemur-2” payloads for Spire Global, which builds and operates a fleet of nanosatellites surveying Earth’s ambiance and monitoring maritime visitors. The Aerospace Corp.’s AeroCube 12A and 12B spacecraft may even be launched to reveal new star-tracker imaging sensors, quite a lot of nanotechnology payloads, superior photo voltaic cells, and an electrical propulsion system on one of many two satellites, in response to NanoRacks, which supplied lodging for the CubeSats on the Cygnus mission.

At the top of the mission, Cygnus will drop out of orbit and fritter away over the South Pacific Ocean with a number of tons of trash now not wanted on the space station.

Orbital ATK is certainly one of two present suppliers of commercial resupply companies to the station by a contract with NASA. The company’s different cargo transportation supplier, SpaceX, has launched 14 operational logistics missions so far, and each corporations have suffered one launch failure throughout a resupply flight.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.



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