Another daytime launch of the Antares rocket is planned from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast; the lift-off should be visible across a large part of the Mid Atlantic if the weather cooperates on Monday, October 21, no sooner than 2:39 pm ET. Previously known as Orbital ATK’s rocket, Northrop Grumman which acquired the company in June 2017, plans to launch its Antares from NASA Wallops. The Antares rocket will carry the cargo craft Cygnus to space. Cygnus will deliver vital equipment, supplies and scientific experiments to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Cargo includes the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02, an experiment that will look for evidence of dark, strange and anti-matter to help us understand how our universe was formed. This mission is known as NG-12.
Designed to provide responsive and low-cost access to space, Antares is a two-stage vehicle that provides low-Earth orbit (LEO) launch capability for payloads weighing up to 8,000 kg. Internally funded by Orbital ATK, Antares completed a risk reduction mission and a demonstration of commercial re-supply services for the ISS under a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement in 2013. Orbital ATK commenced delivery of cargo to the ISS under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract in 2014. The company will conduct three additional missions in 2018 and 2019 to fulfill the CRS1 agreement with NASA to deliver supplies to the space station. Northrop Grumman will also conduct the first mission under the CRS2 contract in 2019, which on its own is for 6 missions to the ISS.
The last launch of the Antares rocket at NASA Wallops occurred last spring in April that mission, the NG-11, brought 7.600 pounds of science and supplies to the ISS. It lifted off from Pad 0A on April 17 at 4:46pm ET; the NG-12 mission will use the same launch pad.
Cargo is delivered to the station using Cygnus spacecraft. The Cygnus spacecraft consists of two modules: the Service Module (SM) which incorporates the avionics, propulsion and power systems from Orbital ATK’s LEOStar and GEOStar spacecraft buses; and the Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) which carries the crew supplies, spares and scientific experiments. The SM is integrated and tested at Northrop Grumman’s Dulles, Virginia satellite manufacturing facility. The PCM is supplied by Thales Alenia Space and is produced in Turin Italy.
The Cygnus spacecraft will bring the AstroRad Vest, a Zero-G Oven, and the Made in Space Recycler to the ISS.
The AstroRad Vest tests a special vest designed to protect astronauts from radiation caused by unpredictable solar particle events. Astronauts will provide input on the garment as they wear it while performing daily tasks, including how easy it is to put on, how it fits and feels, and the range of motion it allows. Garment developers can use this input to improve design. Use of the vest could protect crew members on missions to the Moon and Mars.
The Zero-G Oven examines heat transfer properties and the process of baking food in microgravity. It uses an oven designed specifically for use aboard the space station, and may have application on future long-duration missions by offering a way to increase variety in flavor and nutrition of food for crew members.
The Made in Space Recycler will test systems needed to reprocess plastic into 3D printing filament that can then be transferred for use to the Made in Space Manufacturing Device, a 3D printer that has operated on the orbiting laboratory since 2016. This has implications for space conservation and deep space missions.