NASA cargo spacecraft ATK Cygnus begins delivering key science to ISS

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship from NASA was finally bolted into place on the International Space Station's (ISS) Earth-facing port.

By: IANS | Washington | Updated: March 27, 2016 6:59 pm
Nasa, Cygnus, International Space Station, ISS, spacecraft, space, satellites, science news, technology, technology news Cygnus is equipped with a NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer for CubeSats that will provide opportunities for small satellites to be deployed from Cygnus after the vehicle departs from the ISS. (Source: NASA)

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship from NASA was finally bolted into place on the International Space Station’s (ISS) Earth-facing port.

The spacecraft’s arrival will support the crew members’ research off the Earth to benefit the Earth.

The spacecraft was delivering more than 7,500 pounds (3,400 kg) of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory to support dozens of nearly 250 science and research investigations that will be carried out during Expeditions 47 and 48.

Beginning with this mission, Cygnus is equipped with a NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer for CubeSats that will provide opportunities for small satellites to be deployed from Cygnus after the vehicle departs from the ISS.

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The spacecraft will spend more than a month attached to the space station before separating from the station.

After completion of its primary ISS resupply mission, Cygnus depart a safe distance from the station before deploying the satellites, and begin its destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere in May 2016, disposing of about 3,000 pounds of trash.

The flight was delivering investigations to the space station to study fire, meteors, regolith, adhesion and 3D printing in microgravity.

The “Saffire-I” investigation will provide a new way to study a realistic fire on an exploration vehicle, which has not been possible in the past because the risks for performing such studies on manned spacecraft are too high.

Instruments on the returning Cygnus will measure flame growth, oxygen use and more.

Results could determine microgravity flammability limits for several spacecraft materials, help to validate NASA’s material selection criteria, and help scientists understand how microgravity and limited oxygen affect flame size.

A less heated investigation called “Meteor Composition Determination” will enable the first space-based observations of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere from space, the US space agency said in a statement.

A more “grounded” Strata-1 probe will study the properties and behaviour of regolith – the impact-shattered “soil” found on asteroids, comets, the Moon and other airless worlds.

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From grounded to gripping, another investigation launching takes its inspiration from small lizards. The “Gecko Gripper” investigation tests a gecko-adhesive gripping device that can stick on command in the harsh environment of space.

Once adhered, the gripper can bear loads up to 20 pounds. The gripper can remain in place indefinitely and can also be easily removed and reused.

From adhesion to additive, the new Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) will also be part of the cargo. Additive manufacturing (3D printing) is the process of building a part layer-by-layer, with an efficient use of the material.

The facility is capable of producing parts out of a wide variety of space-rated composites, including engineered plastics.

The ability to manufacture on the orbiting laboratory enables on-demand repair and production capability, as well as essential research for manufacturing on long-term missions.