Friday, May 25, 2018

Cygnus Cargo Freighter Arrives at Space Station with 3 Tons of Cargo, CubeSats and Cold Atom Science Lab

This view taken from inside the Cupola shows the Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-9 space freighter approaching its capture point about 10 meters from the International Space Station where it was grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 24, 2018.  Credit: NASA

Ken Kremer  --  --   24 May 2018

WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, VA – Following a spectacular predawn launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia shore on Monday, May 21, and a three day orbital chase, an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo freighter arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) early Thursday morning, May 24, loaded with over 3 tons of critical cargo, cubesats and a host of science experiments including the Cold Atom Laboratory.

The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will chill atoms to a colder temperature than the vacuum of space.

The unpiloted Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft carried out a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings to raise its initial orbit and close in on the million pound orbiting lab complex.
Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-9 cargo vehicle is approaching the International Space Station to deliver ~7,385 pounds of cargo and scientific experiments. May 24, 2018.  Credit: NASA

Cygnus slowly approached from below and performed an engine burn that brought the vehicle to the Joint Targeting Reference Point (JTRP) some 4 km (2.5 miles) under the ISS.

After a series of ‘go/no-go’ polls and additional thruster firing Cygnus moved in progressively to a series of station keeping points between 1.5 km (0.9 mi) and then 250 m (820 ft), 30 m (98 ft), and finally 12 m (36 ft).

At that point the astronauts then maneuvered and extended the 17.6 m (57.7 ft) long robotic arm to reach and capture Cygnus.

The Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-9 space freighter is slowly maneuvered by the Canadarm2 robotic arm toward the Unity module for installation on the International Space Station on May 24, 2018 to resupply the Expedition 55 crew.  Credit: NASA
The entire operation was broadcast live on NASA TV.

NASA astronaut and Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle captured the Cygnus cargo spacecraft using the International Space Station’s Canadian-built robotic arm at  5:26 a.m. EDT as the vehicles soared some 425 k (264 miles) over the southern Indian Ocean. 

He was backed up by NASA Astronaut Ricky Arnold while NASA astronaut and Drew Feustel Cygnus system during the entire procedure.

Robotic ground controllers at Mission Control in Houston at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC)  then took over and positioned Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-9 space freighter approaches its capture point about 10 meters from the International Space Station where it was grappled with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on May 24, 2018.  Credit: NASA

Berthing at Unity was completed at at 8:13 a.m. EDT after Cygnus was bolted into place with 16 bolts – 4 gangs of 4 bolts to complete the hard mate to the Space Station.

The station was soaring about 254 miles over the South Pacific at the time of berthing.
May 24, 2018: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are attached to the space station including the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship, the Progress 69 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-07 and MS-08 crew ships. Credit: NASA

The cylindrically shaped Cygnus rendezvous, arrival and berthing all proceeded flawlessly since Monday’s nighttime blastoff.

Orbital ATK Antares rocket streaks to orbit punching in and out of low, thick cloud layer in the long exposure image of the Cygnus OA-9 cargo freighter launch at 4:44 a.m. May 21, 2018 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia with 3.7 tons of science and hardware bound for the International Space Station (ISS).  Credit: Ken Kremer/

The two stage Orbital ATK Antares rocket carrying Cygnus came to life and roared to orbit with a crackling thunder as it slowly liftoff off pad 0A at 4:44 a.m. EDT May 21 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and lit up the predawn nighttime sky with a stunningly beautiful launch to orbit - darting in and out of low hanging clouds.
Antares was carrying the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo freighter loaded with some 7400 pounds (3,350 kg) of critical NASA cargo bound for the six person crew living and working aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Watch my launch video:

Video Caption: Launch of Orbital ATK Antares rocket on May 21, 2018 from NASA Wallops Flight Facility oceanside pad 0A in Virginia carrying S.S. J.R. Thompson OA-9 resupply ship to the ISS - as seen in this remote camera video taken at the pad. Credit: Ken Kremer/
Cygnus is scheduled to spend about 7 weeks at the orbiting outpost. 
The Expedition 55 crew planned to open the hatches between the station and Cygnus on Friday and begin methodically unloading all the gear.

Cygnus will depart in mid-July after the crew reloads the vehicle with several tons of unneeded trash.

It will then conduct about 2 weeks of orbital operation including science and cube sat deployments before being programmed for a final thruster firing that will set the vehicle on course for a fiery and destructive reentry into the atmosphere and harmless breakup over unpopulated areas of the Pacific Ocean.
The mission, alternatively named CRS-9 or OA-9, is Orbital ATK’s ninth contracted cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station for NASA. 11 cargo flights are planned altogether under the initial contract with NASA.
On board Cygnus are 7,400 pounds (3,350 kg) of cargo including science experiments, research gear, food, water, spare parts, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to support the Expedition 55 and 56 crews.
Cygnus will deliver about 30,000 kilograms vital equipment, supplies and scientific equipment to the space station as part of Orbital ATK’s Commercial Resupply Services-1 (CRS-1) contract with NASA.

The manifest aboard includes:
§  2,626 pounds (1,191 kilograms) of vehicle hardware
§  2,251 pounds (1,021 kilograms) of science investigations
§  1,788 pounds (811 kilograms) of crew supplies
§  291 pounds (132 kilograms) of spacewalk equipment
§  220 pounds (100 kilograms) of computer resources
§  29 pounds (13 kilograms) of Russian hardware

The Cold Atom Lab team including Nobel Prize Winner Eric Cornwell hold full scale model of the experiment riding along on Cygnus to the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer/

NASA Science Highlights on Cygnus OA-9 include:

·        The Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST), an investigation to identify unknown microbial organisms on the space station and understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living on the station

·        The Cold Atom Laboratory, a physics research facility used by scientists to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to extreme cold temperatures

·        A unique liquid separation system from Zaiput Flow Technologies that relies on surface forces, rather than gravity, to extract one liquid from another

·        The Ice Cubes Facility, the first commercial European opportunity to conduct research in space, made possible through an agreement with ESA (European Space Agency) and Space Applications Services.

·        The Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS) experiment is to investigate and understand the complex process of cement solidification in microgravity with the intent of improving Earth-based cement and concrete processing and as the first steps toward making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies.

·        Three Earth science CubeSats

·        RainCube (Radar in a CubeSat) will be NASA’s first active sensing instrument on a CubeSat that could enable future rainfall profiling missions on low-cost, quick-turnaround platforms.

·        TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) is mission to validate technology that could improve our understanding of cloud processes.

·        CubeRRT (CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology) will seek to demonstrate a new technology that can identify and filter radio frequency interference, which is a growing problem that negatively affects the data quality collected by radiometers, instruments used in space for critical weather data and climate studies.

Three of the ISS crewmates are set to return to Earth on June 3 in their Russian Soyuz MS-07 capsule.

A three person replacement and new Expedition 56-57 crew will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 6 in the Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft for a six-month mission.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of Orbital ATK, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and more space and mission reports direct from the Wallops Flight Facility, Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: – – twitter @ken_kremer - ken at

Antares OA-9 Post Launch Briefing May 21, 2018 at NASA Wallops: Kirk Shireman, NASA International Space Station Program manager; Kurt Eberly, Antares Deputy Program Manager, Orbital ATK; and Frank DeMauro, Vice President and General Manager of the Advanced Programs Division, Orbital ATK.  Credit: Ken Kremer/

No comments:

Post a Comment