Orbital ATK has successfully launched the Antares 230 rocket with Cygnus cargo spacecraft on board from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The spacecraft is carrying about 7,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo, and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
The supplies are expected to reach the ISS on the early morning of Thursday, May 24, where NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Ricky Arnold will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Cygnus.
“Very exciting morning. Earth’s newest spacecraft launched this morning in a column of fire and roar,” Kirk Shireman, NASA’s space program manager, said.
The experiments on board the Cygnus spacecraft include a student cement-mixing experiment, a handheld sextant to test for emergency star navigation, Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology experiment for sequencing microbes found aboard the ISS and the Cold Atom Lab aimed at producing temperatures within a billionth of a degree of absolute zero. The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) apparatus is about the size of an ice chest.
The Cygnus vehicle is also carrying three CubeSats that will test new technologies for Earth observations namely RainCube satellite, short for “a Radar in a CubeSat”, the CubeSat Radiometer Radio Frequency Interference Technology Validation satellite (CubeRRT), and the TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) satellite.
Cygnus is set to depart the orbiting space station in July of this year with several tons of trash and burn up. It will re-enter into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
The space station is currently home to six astronauts in total including Anton Shkaplerov, who is Expedition 55’s commander, Scott Tingle, Norishige Kanai, Oleg Artemyev, Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel. While Feustel, Arnold, and Artemyev will return to Earth in August this year to close out their 159 days voyage, Shkaplerov, Tingle, and Kanai will remain aboard the orbiting lab until June 2018.