A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with the Cygnus refueling spacecraft on board, was launched last Saturday toward the International Space Station (ISS) from Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus carries more than three and a half tons of research equipment, crew supplies, and hardware.
About three hours after launch, the spacecraft’s solar panels were successfully deployed to collect sunlight to power Cygnus on his journey to the space station. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will use the space station’s robotic Canadarm2 to capture Cygnus upon arrival, while NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins monitors telemetry during the encounter, captures and installation in the port facing Earth of the Unity module.
Northrop Grumman’s 15th cargo flight to the ISS is the fourth under its commercial refueling services contract with NASA. Cygnus was launched on an Antares 230+ rocket from Platform 0A of the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops. The refueling flight will support dozens of new and existing investigations. The Cygnus spacecraft will remain on the ISS for approximately three months before departing with up to 3,720 kilograms of waste cargo.
During mission NG-15, Cygnus will once again act as a science platform in low Earth orbit for a variety of clients. After exiting the station, the spacecraft will deploy several CubeSats via a Slingshot deployer and a Nanoracks dispenser, including Dhabisat, the second CubeSat developed by Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Dhabisat was developed as part of the Khalifa Space Systems and Technology Concentration, a joint program established in 2015 in collaboration with United Arab Emirates-based satellite operator Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) and Northrop Grumman.
For this mission, Antares also carries 30 secondary payloads called ThinSats. The ThinSats program is a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) outreach program sponsored by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority for grades 4-12. These satellites were built by students from 70 schools located in nine states (Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia).