Northrop Grumman Corporation is set to launch the company’s AntaresTM rocket carrying its CygnusTM cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station for NASA. Pending completion of cargo late load and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch will take place Nov. 2, with lift-off scheduled for 9:59 a.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.
Scheduled to rendezvous and berth with the station on Nov. 4, 2019, NG-12 marks the 12th Cygnus mission to deliver cargo to the ISS and the first launch under the company’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 (CRS-2) contract. NG-12 will be the heaviest load carried by both Cygnus and Antares with approximately 8,200 pounds (3,729 kilograms) of cargo for the station. The rocket’s 230+ version will be used for this mission which includes upgrades to the Stage 1 core, lighter composite structures and an optimized second stage motor. The upgraded Stage 1 core allows the Antares engines to perform at full thrust throughout most of the first stage flight profile.
“With these upgrades, we are able to offer NASA more cargo capacity for their CRS-2 missions by increasing the performance of Antares. We are also providing more flexibility for the final cargo load,” said Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager, flight systems, Northrop Grumman. “As a commercial partner to NASA, we are dedicated to providing the best value to our customer in support of their critical missions.”
On this mission, Cygnus will undergo a late load of critical cargo 24 hours before the scheduled launch. This capability allows time-sensitive payloads, such as the live rodents flying on Cygnus, to be safely transported to the space station. Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman began providing science facilities for NASA to support rodent research at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. A key flexibility feature added for CRS-2 is the ability for NASA to significantly alter the final cargo load by up to 20 percent as late as 24 hours before liftoff.
Another new capability that will be demonstrated during this mission is the simultaneous operation of two Cygnus spacecraft in orbit. The NG-12 mission will be in orbit at the same time as the NG-11 Cygnus spacecraft, which launched in April 2019 on an extended duration flight. The ability to fly two vehicles at once further demonstrates the robustness of Cygnus to support the goals of NASA’s ambitious missions.
“Northrop Grumman is honored to continue providing cargo logistics services to the space station under NASA’s second commercial resupply services contract as a trusted partner,” said Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager, space systems, Northrop Grumman. “The Cygnus spacecraft continues to provide critical services to the orbiting laboratory while demonstrating a number of innovative capabilities, and our recent partnership with the Eastern Virginia Medical School is just one of the ways we’re expanding our program.”
Northrop Grumman names each Cygnus spacecraft in honor of astronauts and individuals who contributed to the U.S. commercial space program. For the NG-12 mission, the company commemorates astronaut Alan Bean who was selected by NASA to fly on Apollo 12, the second landing of humans on the moon. The mission, launched in 1969, recently marked its 50th anniversary. Bean also flew as the commander of Skylab 3, the second crewed mission to Skylab where he spent 59 days aboard the orbiting station, setting a new world record at that time. After retiring from NASA, Bean dedicated his life to painting scenes inspired by his time on the lunar surface. The S.S Alan Bean’s trip to the space station honors Bean’s dedication to advance capabilities that allowed humans to explore space in greater length and detail, as well as his desire to share his experiences with the rest of the world.
The S.S. Alan Bean will be captured by the space station at approximately 4:10 a.m. EST on Nov. 4, 2019. The spacecraft will remain attached to the space station for approximately two months before departing with up to 8,200 pounds (approximately 3,720 kilograms) of disposal cargo. The removal of these objects is a crucial step in keeping the station operational.
Once Cygnus is unberthed from the station, it will reposition to deploy CubeSats using a Nanoracks deployer. The Slingshot CubeSat Deployer System is also scheduled to be installed by astronauts while Cygnus is docked to the station for another round of CubeSat deployments. This reinforces how the Cygnus spacecraft continues to serve commercial business in low-earth orbit through the second phase of its resupply missions to the space station.
Live coverage of the Antares launch and Cygnus berthing with the station will be available on NASA Television at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv. Details about the mission can be viewed here.