Northrop Grumman Green-Lights Two More Cygnus Missions, As NG-15 Arrives at Space Station

Deftly manipulated by Expedition 64 astronaut Soichi Noguchi, Canadarm2 reaches out for the NG-15 Cygnus on Monday morning. Picture Credit score: Soichi Noguchi/NASA

As Northrop Grumman Corp.’s NG-15 Cygnus spacecraft arrived safely at the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday morning, the Bethpage, N.Y.-headquartered agency has confirmed that Thales Alenia Area of Turin, Italy, will fabricate an extra two Pressurized Cargo Modules (PCMs) for a pair of forthcoming missions. Present plans are for the 2 further Cygnuses—designated NG-18 and NG-19—to launch atop Antares 230+ boosters from Pad 0A on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va., no prior to 2023.

Saturday’s launch of the NG-15 Cygnus marks the fourth of six missions baselined to Northrop Grumman Corp. underneath the CRS2 settlement with NASA. Video Credit score: AmericaSpace

They type a part of an extension to Northrop Grumman’s second-phase Commercial Resupply Services (CRS2) contract with NASA, which initially referred to as for “at the very least six” Cygnus missions to be launched by 2024, 4 of which have now been accomplished or are underway.

However Cygnus’ spectacular historical past extends again greater than a decade. In December 2008, Orbital Sciences Corp. finalized the first-phase CRS1 contract with NASA, totaling $1.9 billion, which required eight devoted cargo missions to haul 44,000 kilos (20,000 kg) of payloads, gear and provides to the ISS by means of 2016.

Cygnus’ Pressurized Cargo Modules (PCMs) are constructed by Thales Alenia Area in Turin, Italy. Picture Credit score: Thales Alenia Area

The primary “demonstration” mission (ORB-D) of Cygnus launched successfully to the station on 18 September 2013 and after a delay caused by a data-link anomaly the spacecraft and its 1,300 kilos (590 kg) of cargo was “berthed”—through the Canadarm2 robotic belongings—on the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the Concord node on the 29th.  

ORB-D spent three weeks berthed on the ISS, earlier than being faraway from the Concord nadir interface on 22 October and solid adrift, to harmlessly burn up with 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of trash in Earth’s atmosphere a couple of days later.

Soichi Noguchi (proper) and Mike Hopkins on the controls of Canadarm2 throughout Monday morning’s seize of the NG-15 Cygnus. Picture Credit score: Mike Hopkins/NASA

The mission cleared a variety of essential milestones which enabled Cygnus to maneuver into “operational” cargo deliveries and in January and July of 2014 a pair of flights—designated “ORB-1” and “ORB-2”—have been carried out with flawless perfection. Between them, they delivered 6,420 kilos (2,910 kg) of cargo to the ISS and eliminated 6,480 kilos (2,940 kg) of outdated and damaged gear and different no-longer-needed supplies.

Curiously, the first-ever grapple of a Cygnus with ORB-D was supported by newly-arrived Expedition 37 crewman Mike Hopkins, who was additionally on responsibility within the multi-windowed cupola greater than seven years later for Monday’s profitable seize of NG-15. And with Hopkins having additionally welcomed ORB-1 in January 2014, he turns into the one individual to have participated within the seize and berthing of three discrete Cygnuses throughout his astronaut profession.

Spectacular view of the NG-15 Cygnus, with its attribute fan-like UltraFlex photo voltaic arrays deployed, as seen by means of the window of Dragon Resilience. Picture Credit score: Mike Hopkins/NASA

However success and failure are alternate sides of the identical coin and in October 2014 a liquid oxygen turbopump failure in the Antares booster resulted within the catastrophic lack of the ORB-Three Cygnus—and its whole ISS-bound cargo, totaling 4,880 kilos (2,200 kg)—only a few seconds after liftoff.

As Orbital Sciences Corp. dug into the trigger and made requisite improvements to the launch vehicle, contracts were signed with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to fly at the very least two Cygnus missions atop its venerable Atlas V. And with Orbital having merged in February 2015 with Alliant TechSystems, Inc., to change into Orbital ATK, the following mission drew a brand new nomenclature: “OA-4”.

Mike Hopkins prepares to open the Widespread Berthing Mechanism (CBM) hatch to the ORD-D automobile in September 2013. With yesterday’s seize of NG-15, he turns into the one individual to have been readily available for the grapple of three Cygnuses. Picture Credit score: NASA

In contrast to its predecessors, OA-4, which launched in December 2015, marked the primary flight of the “Enhanced” Cygnus, which advantages from a bigger PCM—some Four toes (1.2 meters) taller than earlier ones—and will ship an 53-percent-larger haul of payloads, in addition to boasting light-weight and higher-efficiency UltraFlex photo voltaic arrays.

The latter modified Cygnus’ look each figuratively and actually, because the UltraFlex arrays are fan-shaped, versus the straight-wing design of the sooner model. And with a complete payload upmass of over 7,300 kilos (3,350 kg), OA-Four marked the heaviest-ever Cygnus at the moment, with 40 p.c extra cargo than earlier missions.

Cygnus flew 11 profitable missions underneath the CRS1 contract between 2013-2019 and with the in-progress NG-15 flight has at present executed two-thirds of its baseline CRS2 requirement. Picture Credit score: NASA

Longevity was an added bonus within the Enhanced Cygnus, for when OA-4 finally returned to Earth in February 2016 it logged over 75 days in house, of which greater than 71 have been spent berthed on the ISS. This was virtually double the achievement of any of its predecessors.

A second Atlas V-boosted Cygnus (OA-6) followed in March 2016, earlier than Antares returned to operational service the next October to fly the out-of-numerical-sequence OA-5 mission. A 3rd (and to date final) launch atop an Atlas V followed in April 2017 with OA-7, which achieved the unique CRS1 goal of 44,000 kilos (20,000 kg) of cargo supply after seven missions, quite than eight.

Video Credit score: Northrop Grumman Corp.

This was thanks principally to the elevated uplift capability of the mighty Atlas V and the expanded payload envelope of the Enhanced Cygnus. An “extension” program with two further Cygnus flights—designated “OA-8E” and “OA-9E”—had been added to the CRS1 contract in August 2015 to bridge the gap before an anticipated second-phase CRS2 contract came online and these two missions flew in November 2017 and May 2018.

Within the meantime, early in 2018 Northrop Grumman Corp. concluded its acquisition of Orbital ATK and from the tenth flight in November of that year—which by the way marked the primary Cygnus to log over 100 days on a single mission—flights have been correspondingly renamed with an “NG-xx” designator. An eleventh mission (NG-11) followed in April 2019 and formally closed out the CRS1 dedication.

NG-14 arrived on the ISS in October 2020. Picture Credit score: NASA

By this stage, nevertheless, Cygnus had already won a slice of NASA’s CRS2 contract, with an expectation that it might present “at the very least six” extra missions between 2019 and 2024. It was one in every of three companions (alongside SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp.) on this second-phase ISS resupply contract, but was alone among them in achieving its first CRS2-contracted flight on schedule with the launch of NG-12 in November 2019.

Of these six baselined missions, three have already been accomplished. NG-12 was adopted in February 2020 by NG-13 and, simply final October, by NG-14, named in honor of fallen STS-107 astronaut Kalpana “K.C.” Chawla. A fourth was launched last week, with the NG-15 Cygnus robotically captured yesterday morning by Canadarm2 and Expedition 64 astronauts Soichi Noguchi and Mike Hopkins.

First trialed on OA-Four in December 2015, the “prolonged” Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) permits a considerably extremely upmass of payload in comparison with its predecessor, the Normal Cygnus, used between 2013-2014. Picture Credit score: NASA/Astronaut Ricky Arnold, through Twitter

And looking out forward, the NG-16 {hardware} is on observe to be launched this coming July, with an expectation that each the Northrop Grumman-built Service Module and the Thales Alenia Area-built PCM for the mission can be shipped to Wallops in Might. After that, the NG-17 mission—the sixth and final CRS2-contracted Cygnus—will fly subsequent 12 months.

With Northrop Grumman having yesterday confirmed that Thales Alenia Area will present PCMs for the NG-18 and NG-19 flights, this extends the CRS2 contract to at the very least eight missions for Cygnus alone.

The NG-15 spacecraft, recognized right here as “Cygnus-15”, is pictured at its Earth-facing (or “nadir”) berth on the house station’s Unity node. Picture Credit score: NASA

“For the previous decade, we now have been a valued companion on Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus program, showcasing progressive applied sciences that enable work and life on the Worldwide Area Station (ISS), whereas fostering scientific breakthroughs,” mentioned Walter Cugno, vice chairman of the Exploration and Science Area at Thales. “We’re assured that this new contract can be an necessary milestone for the long run deep-space cargo and exploration missions.”

Certainly, Thales Alenia Area has contributed to a minimum of 50 p.c of all pressurized modules on the house station and with Northrop Grumman is an integral companion within the improvement of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) for the Lunar Gateway, which will be placed around the Moon later this decade.

Artist’s idea of the HALO module. Picture Credit score: Northrop Grumman Corp.

Together with this week’s arrival of the NG-15, Cygnus missions have delivered greater than 90,000 kilos (40,000 kg) of kit, payloads and provides to dozens of ISS expedition crews and their voluminous PCMs have afforded ample room to “take out the trash” on the finish of their missions.

Analysis investigations delivered through Cygnus have run the gamut from life sciences to expertise and crew provides have ranged from meals, water and garments to laptop spares, house go well with parts and spare components for the ISS bathroom.

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