Credit: Patrick Black/NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus vehicle has been named in honor of NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy officer John Young. Young spent 835 hours in space over six missions as a NASA astronaut.
The Cygnus Spacecraft is an unmanned cargo resupply spacecraft designed and operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation.
The Cygnus program started as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Program (COTS) and enters the Commercial Resupply Services Program once completing its first demonstration flight.
Cygnus transports pressurized cargo to the International Space Station.
The spacecraft is launched atop Orbital’s Antares rocket lifting off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Virginia. Cygnus is not capable of returning cargo to Earth and burns up on re-entry to dispose of itself and no-longer-needed items from ISS.
Aboard the Cygnus vehicle will be a device called the Refabricator as part of the In-Space Manufacturing Refabricator project. This is the first integrated 3D printer and recycler that will turn waste plastic into filament for 3D-printing aboard the space station. The filament will be used for repairs aboard the space station and also as a means of recycling waste. The device could also be used to fabricate things on board the space station.
This technology could be very useful for long-term deep-space missions where astronauts will have to deal with waste, repair and resource issues on a regular basis. As the investigation’s research overview states, “Without a recycling capability, a large supply of feedstock would need to be stowed on board for long-duration exploration missions.” This investigation is sponsored by NASA’s Technology Demonstration Office.
Medium-Class Space Launch Vehicle
Designed to provide responsive and low cost access to space, Antares is a two-stage
vehicle (with optional third stage) that provides low-Earth orbit (LEO) launch capability for payloads weighing up to 8,000 kg. Internally developed by Northrop Grumman, Antares completed a risk reduction mission and a demonstration of commercial re-supply services for the International Space Station (ISS) under a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement in 2013. Northrop Grumman commenced delivery of cargo to the International Space Station under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services 1 (CRS1) contract in 2014 and will continue to fly CRS1
missions to 2019. In early 2016, Northrop Grumman was selected to continue cargo deliveries under the CRS2 contract. Missions under CRS2 will commence in 2019 and continue to 2024.
The Antares launch system utilizes Northrop Grumman’s proven MACH avionics system and many management approaches, engineering standards, production and test processes common to Northrop Grumman’s family of successful small-class
Pegasus® and Minotaur launch vehicles. The Antares design features newly-built RD-181 first stage engines that provide robust payload performance
and excellent reliability. The second stage features internally designed and built elements, including the CASTOR® 30XL solid rocket motor, advanced
composite structures, including the large payload fairing, and an avionics section populated with common MACH hardware components.
Articles originally appeared in
Some Strange Science Will Launch Into Space This Week for NASA
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