Orbital ATK sends Cygnus cargo ship to space station with science and a sextant
Science & Technology

Orbital ATK sends Cygnus cargo ship to space station with science and a sextant

Replace for 10 p.m. PT Could 24: Astronauts used the Worldwide Space Station’s robotic arm to snag Orbital ATK’s robotic Cygnus cargo ship and connect it to the station after a three-day journey. Over the course of seven weeks or so, the room-sized spacecraft can be unloaded, then loaded up with trash and set unfastened.

Beforehand: Orbital ATK despatched its robotic Cygnus cargo spaceship on its approach to the Worldwide Space Station on Could 21, loaded up with greater than 7,200 kilos of provides, tools and science experiments.

The 2-stage Antares rocket rose from its launch pad from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 4:44 a.m. ET (1:44 a.m. PT), lighting up the predawn sky for observers throughout a broad swath of the mid-Atlantic coast.

Mission managers pushed liftoff to the very finish of a five-minute alternative to let the climate clear.

Orbital ATK launches the Cygnus atop its Antares rocket beneath the phrases of a business cargo resupply contract with NASA. It’s related to the deal that NASA has with SpaceX. This Cygnus has been christened the S.S. J.R. Thompson in honor of Orbital’s former chief working officer, who died final 12 months.

Spacecraft separation got here minutes after launch. Over the following three days, the cylindrical Cygnus craft will catch up with the space station for its berthing.

Packed aboard the Cygnus are fundamentals equivalent to meals and tanks of oxygen, {hardware} together with computer systems and high-definition cameras, and a wide selection of science experiments.

One of many extra uncommon science payloads is an old-fashioned sextant, which astronauts will use to follow navigational strategies that don’t depend on high-tech methods. The centuries-old expertise would let astronauts decide their place by getting a repair on the moon, planets or stars within the occasion that the space station’s communication methods or computer systems suffered a glitch.

“We wish a sturdy, mechanical backup with as few elements and as no need for energy as doable to get you again dwelling safely,” principal investigator Greg Holt defined in a pre-launch news release.

One other experiment, the Cold Atom Lab, will create the coldest situations within the universe to let scientists examine bizarre quantum habits in zero-G.

Earlier experiments have discovered that superchilled atoms collapse into a single quantum state, however the phenomenon has by no means been studied in weightlessness. Physicists suspect that the bizarre conglomeration, often called Bose-Einstein condensate, will last more on the space station.

Nice pre-dawn launch of #Cygnus #OA9 from @NASA_Wallops – adopted it from down city Norfolk, proper by way of staging. Will word when monitoring TLEs are up. Considering it juuust slid beneath the shadow terminator headed SE. First launch I’ve seen from Wallops. #NASASocial

— Dave Dickinson ???? (@Astroguyz) May 21, 2018

Different science payloads embrace E. coli micro organism which were genetically engineered to assist produce biofuel, an experiment aimed toward identifying strains of microbes on the space station, and plant seeds that could blaze a trail for future space farming.

Cygnus can also be carrying 15 nanosatellites for orbital deployment, together with experimental star-tracking spacecraft, an X-ray detector that can search for a halo of scorching fuel across the Milky Method, and 4 remote-sensing satellites which are being launched for Spire World.

As soon as the Cygnus is attached to the space station, astronauts will unload the cargo, load it again up with trash and set it unfastened. On the finish of its mission in July, the Cygnus will dissipate throughout managed re-entry by way of the ambiance.

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