The Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft blasted off for its NG-15 mission for NASA

The Cygnus Katherine Johnson cargo spacecraft blasting off atop an Antares rocket (Image NASA TV)
The Cygnus Katherine Johnson 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 15th official mission, called NG-15 or CRS NG-15, to transport supplies to the International Space Station for NASA.

This Cygnus spacecraft was named Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) after one of the so-called hidden figures, one of the afro-American women who contributed to the American space program. This Cygnus cargo spacecraft carries a total of a little more than 3,800 kg (8,400 lbs.) of cargo, including 952 kg (2,054 lbs.) of various types of supplies for the crew, 1,413 kg (3,115 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.

Among the cargoes, there’s the Brine Processing Assembly and Bladder, which aims to demonstrate a technology to improve water recovery from the Urine Processor Assembly thanks to a membrane distillation process. This is an improvement to the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), which provides fresh air and water to the Station crew.

Among the medical and biological experiments there are: Micro-16, which uses worms to study muscle weakening in microgravity, Real-Time Protein Crystal Growth 2, to produce certain proteins in microgravity, an experiment for the production of high-quality artificial retinas, and Dreams, an ESA experiment to study astronauts’ sleep.

Tests are being carried out on the International Space Station also in preparation for other space missions. Among the ones sent on the Cygnus cargo spacecraft, there’s the A-HoSS investigation, which aims to test instruments that will be used in NASA’s Artemis program such as Hybrid Electronic Radiation Assessor (HERA), the radiation detection instrument designed for the Orion spacecraft.

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to reach the International Space Station on Monday to be captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 9.40 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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