On 21st May, a Cygnus cargo spacecraft was launched by an Orbital ATK Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) with an objective, which might be the swan song for the organization as an independent team.
The launch program takes five minutes and gets completed when Antares get lifted from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, Wallops Islands at 4.44 am Eastern. Controllers shifted the launch from the starting to the finish of the window due to weather conditions that make the countdown progression easier.
The Cygnus spacecraft will be placed into the orbit by the rocket only in nine minutes after liftoff. Also, the twin solar arrays of this spacecraft will deploy after 60 minutes. As per the official information, the spacecraft will reach the ISS on the early morning of 24th May.
As per NASA ISS program Manager Kirk Shireman, the launch was simply excellent & amazing. He was at the post-launch briefing and also said that I am very happy with the beginning & progression of this mission.
The spacecraft carried around 7385 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station that consist of crew supplies, scientific payloads, and hardware for ISS.
When it comes to scientific payloads, there is the Cold Atom Lab on the spacecraft. It is an experiment that utilizes lasers for slowing down the atoms before they become completely motionless. It further cooling the atoms to the temperature that will be quite low when compared to the temperature of our planet. Also, it has the Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology Experiment whose main purpose is to test the tool that makes the sequencing of DNA quite easily.
Additionally, the Cygnus will be used by NASA for testing their power to boost the orbit of the station. The major part of spacecraft will busy doing a burn late during its stay on the International Space Center and modify the orbital velocity of the station by 0.06 meters in a second.
Shireman also stated that the test’s main purpose is to find out if the Cygnus can be utilized again to re-boost the station. He further added that it would open lots of future options for our team.
It might be the last launch for the Orbital ATK as an independent organization. Last year, Northrop Grumman announced to buy the Orbital ATK for a sum of US$ 9.2 billion.