A few hours ago, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft blasted off atop an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), part of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) on Wallops Island. After about nine minutes it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage went en route to its destination. This is its 16th official mission, called NG-16 or CRS NG-16, to transport supplies to the International Space Station for NASA.
This Cygnus spacecraft was named Ellison Onizuka (1946-1986) after the first Asian-American astronaut, one of the victims of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. This Cygnus cargo spacecraft carries a total of a little more than 3,700 kg (8,200 lbs.) of cargo, including 1,396 kg (3,078 lbs.) of various types of supplies for the crew, 1,064 kg (2,346 lbs.) of hardware, and the rest in equipment and various components. The cargo includes various CubeSat-class nanosatellites and experiments needed for some of the scientific research carried out on the International Space Station.
In recent years, various 3D printers have been tested on the International Space Station for various uses. The Redwire Regolith Print (RRP) tool is designed to use regolith, the materials on the surface of planetary bodies such as the Moon, to build structures that can even be homes for Moon base personnel.
The medical and biological experiments conducted to improve the health of astronauts that often have applications on ordinary people on Earth as well are always numerous. For example, this cargo spacecraft transports Cardinal Muscle to test if the processes that cause sarcopenia, a type of muscle mass loss typical of sedentary life and advancing age, take place in microgravity too. Four Bed CO2 Scrubber aims to demonstrate a technology to remove excess carbon dioxide from a spacecraft that could also have applications on Earth in closed work environments.
The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to reach the International Space Station tomorrow to be captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 10.10 AM UTC. If there are no problems, the day after the arrival of the Cygnus the crew will open the hatch and start unloading its cargo.