A freighter takes off for the space station

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket lifted off the east coast of Virginia on Tuesday, soared over the Atlantic Ocean, and departed after the International space station to deliver 4 tons of crew supplies, equipment and research material.

The two Russian-built RD-181 first-stage engines ignited with a burst of flame at 6:01 p.m. EDT, pushing the 139-foot-high Antares away from pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport – MARS – at NASA Wallops Island Flight Test Facility.

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket lifts off off the east coast of Virginia, propelling a Cygnus freighter into orbit carrying 4 tons of supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station. / Credit: NASA

Rising directly into the plane of the orbit of the space station, the first stage of the rocket made its way through the thick lower atmosphere to an altitude of just over 80 kilometers, before stopping its engines and collapse.

A solid propellant top stage engine then ignited, propelling the spacecraft to an orbital altitude of just over 110 miles.

The Cygnus supply vessel, which was carrying Northrop Grumman’s 16th shipment to the space station, was freed up on its own about nine minutes after launch.

If all goes well, the automated spacecraft will execute a series of carefully planned thruster shots to chase his quarry, stopping about 30 feet from the station around 6:10 a.m. Thursday. The Cygnus will then stand ready while the station’s robotic arm locks and pulls it for docking.

The freighter is loaded with 3,078 pounds of crew supplies, 2,286 pounds of space station equipment, 2,346 pounds of research equipment, and approximately 130 pounds of computer hardware and exit equipment in the space.

The station’s hardware includes mounting brackets for a second set of deployment solar panels that astronauts plan to install during a spacewalk on September 24; oxygen generation equipment; experimental equipment for removing carbon dioxide; emergency breathing equipment for visiting commercial astronauts; and spare parts for a new generation toilet.

The Cygnus also carries experience samples and materials across a wide variety of disciplines, including one that will attempt 3D printing using simulated lunar soil, an experiment to shed light on aging muscles, and a student experience for grow slimy molds in zero gravity.

As always, the spacecraft will deliver fresh fruit and menu items to the space station crew.

Northrop Grumman and SpaceX both build and launch unmanned cargo ships to the International Space Station under NASA contracts to provide resupply services following the Space Shuttle’s withdrawal in 2011.

Northrop Grumman’s initial replenishment contract, including modifications, was worth approximately $ 2.89 billion for 11 cargo delivery missions through April 2019. This week’s flight is the fifth of eight additional missions covered by a follow-up contract with a “not to exceed” value of $ 3.1 billion. .

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