The “S. S. Gene Cernan” Cygnus spacecraft successfully completed its eighth cargo supply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-1) contract, Orbital ATK announced, Dec. 18.
The mission, known as OA-8, achieved significant milestones that further demonstrated the versatility and value of the Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus acted as an extension of the space station for the first time by supporting science experiments inside the cargo module while docked to the laboratory.
The Cygnus spacecraft also removed approximately 6,400 pounds (2,900 kilograms) of items for disposal, marking the largest amount of material removed by the spacecraft during its cargo resupply missions. The “S. S. Gene Cernan” then executed flawlessly on secondary missions that included the deployment of a record 14 cubesats into orbit from a NanoRacks cubesat deployer.
The OA-8 mission officially concluded on December 18 at 7:54 a.m. EST when Cygnus performed a safe, destructive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand. The spacecraft remained docked for 22 days at the orbiting laboratory and departed the space station on December 6.
“From launch to a safe reentry, Cygnus exceeded expectations on every aspect of this mission,” said Frank Culbertson, President of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group. “We made history by successfully hosting science experiments for the first time while attached to the space station, removed a record amount of materials for disposal and deployed the highest number of cubesats yet on a secondary mission. Our success is a fitting tribute to Gene Cernan, one of the great space pioneers in our industry and we are proud to have flown Cygnus in his name.”
The OA-8 mission began on November 12 when Cygnus launched aboard an Orbital ATK Antares rocket at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Upon arrival at the orbiting laboratory, Cygnus delivered approximately 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of cargo and science experiments to the astronauts.
Pending NASA’s specific cargo needs, Orbital ATK is prepared to launch two additional CRS missions next year aboard the company’s Antares rockets from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.