The Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft blasted off for its NG-17 mission for NASA

The Cygnus S.S. Piers Sellers cargo spacecraft blasting off atop an Antares rocket (Image NASA TV)
The Cygnus S.S. Piers Sellers cargo spacecraft blasting off atop an Antares rocket (Image NASA TV)

A little while 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 17th official mission, called NG-17 or CRS NG-17, to transport supplies to the International Space Station for NASA.

This Cygnus spacecraft was named S.S. Piers Sellers (1955-2016) after the British/American astronaut who participated in three Space Shuttle missions and also worked on the assembly of the International Space Station. This Cygnus cargo spacecraft carries a total of about 3,800 kg (8,300 lbs.) of cargo, including 1,352 kg (2,980 lbs.) of various types of supplies for the crew, 1,308 kg (2,883 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.

The medical experiments conducted on the International Space Station are among the most important and among the ones sent on the NG-17 mission is the MicroQuin 3D Tumor, which examines the effects of molecules that show promising effects against cancer cells, in particular against breast and prostate cancer. It will allow collecting new information on the role of TMBIM6 proteins.

The eXposed Root On-Orbit Test System (XROOTS) investigation uses hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants in environments other than soil. The primary purpose is to grow plants in space environments but the techniques developed could also be applied on Earth.

The Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SoFIE) experiment serves to investigate the propagation of flames generated by fuels in microgravity. It’s one of the experiments related to combustion and flammability, among the greatest dangers on a space station.

The Space Demonstration for All Solid-state Lithium Ion Battery (Space AS-Lib) experiment is a new type of lithium-ion battery designed to offer stable performance in extreme temperatures and in a vacuum. It’s a test that is part of the development of a more advanced type of battery.

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to reach the International Space Station next Monday to be captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 9.35 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.

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