The U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and its mission partners successfully delivered the Aerospace Rogue Alpha/Beta CubeSats to the International Space Station.
The mission, designated NG-12, started with the on-time launch of an upgraded Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Antares 230+ rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A Nov. 2 at 9:59 a.m. EDT from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus resupply spacecraft, which carried the Aerospace Cubesats to orbit aboard the S.S. Alan Bean, named in honor of the Apollo 12 moonwalker and Skylab 2 astronaut who died last year, was successfully grappled by the Canadarm 2 robotic arm this morning at 4:10 a.m. EST above the island nation of Madagascar in preparation for berthing it to the space station’s Unity module by NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch. The cubesats will remain there until deployment in January 2020.
The Aerospace Cubesats have officially achieved their priority mission of developing a small low Earth orbit constellation in just 18 months. The cubesats will now collect data on cloud backgrounds to inform future LEO missions. The Air Force will also utilize this program’s data to investigate potential uses of the capability.
“The Cubesats have been successfully delivered to the International Space Station,” said Col. Dennis Bythewood, SMC’s program executive officer for Space Development. “Now we are excitedly waiting until their deployment so that we can begin collecting data for future space development missions.”
“We are pleased to have delivered the Aerospace Rogue CubeSats to the International Space Station,” said Dr. Jeff Emdee, general manager of the Space Development Division at The Aerospace Corporation. “The Cubesats were conceived under our Agile Mission Assurance initiative to demonstrate a rapid reconstitution capability. We then designed and produced them for SMC’s Development Corps in less than 18 months using the very small form factor of the proven AeroCube platform.”
This delivery, on Northrop Grumman’s 12th cargo flight to the space station and the first under its Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract with NASA, will support dozens of new and existing investigations. The NG-12 Cygnus spacecraft will remain at the space station until January before it disposes of several thousand pounds of trash through its controlled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
The Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, is the U.S. Air Force’s center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. SMC’s portfolio includes space launch, global positioning, military space vehicle communications, defense meteorological space vehicles, range systems, space vehicle control networks, space-based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.