by Jeff Foust —

A Northrop Grumman Antares birth car stands on the pad at Wallops Island, Virginia, earlier than the starting up of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS scheduled for April 17. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

WASHINGTON — The next Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo mission to the Global House Position will sigh two unusual capabilities, one earlier than birth and the different after the spacecraft departs the build.

The Cygnus spacecraft, flying a mission designated NG-11, is scheduled to birth out at Four:Forty six p.m. Eastern April 17 on an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. At some level of a pre-birth press convention April 16, officers reported no considerations with birth preparations and sparkling weather, with a ninety five % chance of acceptable stipulations on the scheduled liftoff time.

The Cygnus is carrying more than Three,Four hundred kilograms of cargo on this mission to the build. Of that total, 1,569 kilograms is for a unfold of scientific investigations, with 936 kilograms of crew affords. The rest is split among car hardware, miscellaneous equipment and a satellite tv for computer deployer for NanoRacks.

For the foremost time, some of that cargo will be loaded onto the Cygnus simply 24 hours earlier than birth. The NG-11 mission is the foremost to sigh a “tiring load” functionality of cargo after the automobile has been rolled out to the starting up pad. Six cargo bags will be loaded onto the Cygnus at that time, said Andrew Zarechnak, Cygnus car manager at Northrop Grumman, at a pre-birth science briefing.

“It permits us to attain more science on this car and permits more kinds of science to score to the build,” he said. That involves a rodent learn experiment that parts forty mice, the foremost time such an experiment has flown on the Cygnus. Identical experiments within the previous had to fly on SpaceX’s Dragon, which already has the ability to load cargo into the automobile internal a day of birth.

That tiring load makes spend of a unusual “pop-top” payload fairing for the Antares, whose top will also be eliminated to allow score entry to to the Cygnus. A mobile payload processing facility is moved into enviornment across the fairing whereas the rocket is horizontal on the pad so that crews can score entry to the Cygnus to load that cargo.

The Cygnus is scheduled to be berthed to the ISS by the build’s robotic arm April 19 and remain on the build for about ninety days. After being unberthed, this would possibly occasionally seemingly perhaps perhaps maneuver into an even bigger orbit to deploy satellites.

On previous missions the Cygnus has deorbited internal a few weeks of departing the build, nonetheless on the NG-11 mission Northrop Grumman plans to take Cygnus in orbit for months to test its ability to operate a free-flying learn platform.

“We’re going to birth out up an prolonged duration mission for Cygnus where we’re going to sigh the ability of Cygnus to fly long classes of time in house, where it’ll also be an sparkling testbed for scientific experiments,” said Frank DeMauro, vp and long-established manager of house methods at Northrop Grumman.

To allow that prolonged mission, the Cygnus now has a take watch over 2nd gyro to tackle the attitude take watch over of the spacecraft, decreasing the necessity for it to make spend of thrusters. That saves gas that can as an different be extinct to support its orbit and score other maneuvers, extending the spacecraft’s lifetime in orbit.

DeMauro said the company hopes to sigh that the Cygnus, as a free-flying spacecraft, assuredly is a platform for scientific learn and expertise demonstrations. “We want to sigh the in point of fact pristine microgravity ambiance that Cygnus will present,” he said. That would also contain, on future missions, flying faraway from the ISS to score experiments for a time earlier than returning so that the experiments will also be retrieved.

The corporate hasn’t effect a firm timetable for that prolonged mission. DeMauro said the company would hang to take the NG-11 Cygnus in orbit no longer less than unless after the starting up of the NG-12 Cygnus a whereas within the plunge. That would allow Northrop Grumman to sigh the ability to honest two Cygnus spacecraft simultaneously from the similar take watch over heart.

“We’re thinking something on the list of six to seven months as a minimum mission duration,” he said. “When we attain that aim, if we’ve accomplished your total other targets, then we’ll regroup and resolve how for plenty longer we would possibly perhaps perhaps would like to fly the automobile.”

The NG-11 Cygnus mission is the foremost of two industrial cargo spacecraft effect to fly to the ISS this month. SpaceX is scheduled to birth out its most recent Dragon cargo spacecraft to the build April 26 from Florida. That support-to-support scheduling, said Joel Montalbano, deputy manager of the ISS program at NASA, used to be a outcomes of when the missions were in a position to fly.

“Will we concept missions a week aside? On the total we don’t attain that,” he said. “Our concept is to fly when the prospects are ready.”

This mission can be the final one from the customary Business Resupply Products and providers (CRS) contract awarded to what used to be then Orbital Sciences Company in 2008. The NG-12 mission will be the foremost of no longer less than six missions for the apply-on CRS-2 contract awarded in 2016.

“After I deem support to when we first started this, taking a deem about ahead to what would possibly perhaps perhaps well be our final mission, appears tackle so skill support,” DeMauro said. “But right here we are.”

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