Mission NG-12 accomplished: the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft has reached the International Space Station

The Cygnus Alan Bean cargo spacecraft captured by Canadarm2 robotic arm (Image NASA TV)
The Cygnus Alan Bean cargo spacecraft captured by Canadarm2 robotic arm (Image NASA TV)

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, launched last Saturday, November 2, has just reached the International Space Station and was captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Astronaut Jessica Meir, assisted by her colleague Christina Koch, will soon begin the slow maneuver to move the Cygnus until it docks with the Station’s Unity module after about two hours.

Tomorrow the International Space Station crew should open the Cygnus spacecraft’s hatch and at that point the cargo will be slowly brought to the Station. The NG-12 mission is almost accomplished because the Cygnus spacecraft can’t land and when it comes back into Earth’ss atmosphere it will disintegrate. For this reason, it will be used to get rid of component failed or that can’t be used any longer on the International Space Station: all of that will be loaded on the Cygnus and will disintegrate along with it.

The Cygnus named “Alan Bean” is scheduled to leave the International Space Station a little more than two months, next Jenuary. In these cases, a tentative date for the cargo spacecraft departure is given that can be modified because it also depends on other tasks that can have higher priority. Northrop Grumman is making its cargo spacecraft more resistant to space conditions to use them for more tasks after their departure. In the past experiments were already conducted aboard, so much so that the Cygnus “Roger Chaffee”, which completed the NG-11 mission, is still in orbit. It’s the first time that two Cygnus cargo spacecraft are in orbit at the same time.

This is the 12th of the official missions established with Northrop Grumman’s contract with NASA, acquired with Orbital ATK, to resupply the International Space Station. The second contract, CRS2 (Commercial Resupply Services 2), started with it, an important success also because the new version of the Antares rocket worked perfectly ensuring the possibility of sending more cargoes into orbit. The next mission could begin in February 2020.

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