Orbital ATK successfully launches ninth cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station for NASA
(21 May 2018 - Orbital ATK) Orbital ATKsuccessfully launched the company’s Antares rocket carrying its Cygnus spacecraft today at 4:44 a.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The launch marks Orbital ATK’s ninth cargo mission for NASA.
Orbital ATK's Antares rocket launched the Company's Cygnus spacecraft carrying about 7,400 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station on May 21, 2018 (courtesy: Orbital ATK)
The Antares medium-class rocket matched its record for the heaviest cargo load carried to date with approximately 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of vital supplies and scientific equipment aboard Cygnus that will be delivered to the crew aboard the International Space Station.
Following an approximate nine-minute ascent, the “S.S. J.R. Thompson” Cygnus spacecraft, named in honor of J.R. Thompson, a distinguished leader in the space industry, was successfully deployed into orbit. Orbital ATK’s engineering team confirmed reliable communications have been established and the vehicle’s solar arrays are fully deployed, providing the necessary electrical power to operate the spacecraft.
“Watching an Antares launch cargo to the International Space Station is always impressive,” said Scott Lehr, President of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group. “The team works very hard to ensure each NASA commercial resupply mission is successful.”
Cygnus will be grappled at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT on May 24. The spacecraft will remain attached to the space station for approximately seven weeks before departing with up to 7,100 pounds (approximately 3,200 kilograms) of disposal cargo. Cygnus’s large-volume disposal capability is unique among America’s commercial cargo providers and a critical service for NASA.
On this mission, Cygnus will also fly for the first time with an upgraded communications system known as Common Communication for Visiting Vehicles (C2V2). This new system provides Cygnus with the capability for enhanced communication with science payloads and improved interface with hosted payloads on future missions.
“Orbital ATK is proud to once again support the crew on the International Space Station by delivering valuable supplies, equipment and science,” said Frank Culbertson, President of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group. “The upgraded avionics and communication system on the spacecraft demonstrate our commitment to increasing the flexibility and versatility of Cygnus to carry a wide range of payloads. We are also honored to name this mission after J.R. Thompson, a pioneer in the space industry and someone who many of us here at Orbital ATK and in the NASA community were honored to call a colleague and friend.”
Once the “S.S. J.R. Thompson” unberths from the space station, a NanoRacks deployer will release six cubesats. Upon completion of its secondary missions, Cygnus will perform a safe, destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
Under the CRS-1 contract with NASA, Orbital ATK will deliver approximately 66,000 pounds (30,000 kilograms) of cargo to the space station. Beginning in 2019, the company will carry out a minimum of six cargo missions under NASA’s CRS-2 contract. This partnership is cultivating a robust American commercial space industry, freeing NASA to focus on developing the next-generation rocket and spacecraft that will enable humans to conduct deep space exploration missions.
The Cygnus system consists of a common service module and pressurized cargo module (PCM). Orbital ATK builds and tests the service module at its manufacturing facility in Dulles, Virginia. The company manufactures several other Cygnus components at three facilities in California: UltraFlexTM solar arrays in Goleta, composite structures in San Diego and propellant tanks in Commerce. The PCM is provided by industry partner Thales Alenia Space in Torino, Italy.