NASA commercial cargo provider, Orbital ATK is scheduled to launch its eighth Cygnus mission to the International Space Station (ISS) at 7:37 a.m. EST Saturday, Nov. 11 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The Cygnus cargo spacecraft will launch on Orbital ATK’s upgraded Antares rocket from Pad 0A of Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at Wallops.
Under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, Cygnus will carry about 7,400 pounds of crew supplies and hardware to the space station, including science and research in support of dozens of research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 53 and 54.
Cygnus will carry several CubeSats that will conduct a variety of missions, from technology demonstrations of laser communication and increased data downlink rates to an investigation to study spaceflight effects on bacterial antibiotic resistance.
Other experiments will advance biological monitoring aboard the station and look at various elements of plant growth in microgravity that may help inform plant cultivation strategies for future long-term space missions. The spacecraft will also transport a virtual reality camera to record a National Geographic educational special on Earth as a natural life-support system.
Cygnus will arrive at the station on Monday, Nov. 13. Expedition 53 Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Randy Bresnik of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Cygnus at about 5:40 a.m.
After Canadarm2 captures Cygnus, ground commands will be sent to guide the station’s robotic arm as it rotates and attaches the spacecraft to the bottom of the station’s Unity module.
Cygnus will remain at the space station until Dec. 4, when the spacecraft will depart the station and deploy several CubeSate before its fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere as it disposes of several tons of trash.
This Cygnus spacecraft is named in honor of the former astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan, the last human to step foot on the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission. Cernan set records for both lunar surface extravehicular activities and longest time in lunar orbit. He died in January 2017.