Final Antares flight successfully launches Space Station resupply mission

Antares launches for the final time (Credit NASA)

Antares’ final mission was a 100 percent success as the rocket sent the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station.

The launch occurred on time at 8:31 p.m. ET (00:31 UTC) from Launch Pad 0 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia. Cygnus will arrive at the International Space Station on August 4th and a planned berthing to the station at 5:55 a.m. ET (09:55 UTC).

Since the first Cygnus mission, all have been named, and for this mission, it has been named the S.S. Laurel Clark in honor of the NASA astronaut who flew on the STS-107 Space Shuttle Columbia mission.

Following orbital insertion, the Cygnus spacecraft had no issues as it unfurled its two solar arrays that will provide power to the spacecraft on its journey to the Space Station. During the NG-18 mission, one of the solar arrays failed to deploy due to debris being lodged into the separation mechanics during stage separation.

Similar to how older SpaceX Dragon cargo capsules were berthed to the ISS, NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg will use the Canadarm2 to grapple Cygnus and attach it to the Space Station. Once Cygnus is attached, the crew aboard the ISS will begin removing the supplies and experiments from the vehicle.

In addition to the supplies, some of the experiments on board include:

Better water for explorers: This system, Exploration PWD, features advances in water sterilization, and microbial growth reduction, and has the ability to dispense hot water.

Testing gene therapy: Neuronix: will demonstrate the formation of three-dimensional neuronal cell cultures in microgravity and tests a neuron-specific gene therapy. If successful, it could provide the opportunity to test drugs and treatments for neurological disease on the ISS.

Astrobee: A free-flying robot that uses electric fans to navigate, will help astronauts with routine daily activities. The Astrobee system consists of 3 robots named Bumble, Honey, and Queen. The system has been in use off and on since 2018.

Cygnus will depart the ISS in October, carrying with it thousands of pounds of trash and one final experiment that will occur before its fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The Spacecraft Fire Experiment-VI, the final in the series, will test flammability at different oxygen levels and demonstrate fire detection, combustion product monitoring, and post-fire cleanup capabilities.

The Saffire experiment in progress during a prior Cygnus mission (Credit NASA)

The next 3 Cygnus spacecraft will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 while Northrop Grumman and Firefly Aerospace work on developing the Antares 330 rocket that is due to launch no earlier than 2025.

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Final Antares flight successfully launches Space Station resupply mission
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