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NG-15 Cygnus spacecraft departs space station

A view of NG-15 Cygnus as it arrived at the International Space Station in February 2021. The spacecraft departed the outpost on June 29, 2021. Credit: NASA

A view of NG-15 Cygnus as it arrived at the International Space Station in February 2021. The spacecraft departed the outpost on June 29, 2021. Credit: NASA

After four months at the International Space Station, Northrop Grumman’s NG-15 Cygnus cargo ship departed the outpost to begin a brief post-ISS mission before being disposed of over the Pacific Ocean.

At 12:32 p.m. EDT (16:32 UTC) June 29, 2021, the NG-15 Cygnus spacecraft, dubbed SS Katherine Johnson, was released by the robotic Canadarm2 several hours after the device unberthed the cargo ship from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

“As we say farewell to the SS Katherine Johnson, we want to extend a big thank you to the crew and ground teams across the world for all their hard work and a big congratulations on the completion of yet another successful Cygnus mission,” radioed the capsule communicator in Mission Control Houston to the ISS Expedition 65 crew.

NG-15 Cygnus launched atop an Antares 230+ rocket Feb. 20, 2021, from Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, and arrived at the ISS on Feb. 22. It brought with it a total of 8,400 pounds (3,810 kilograms) of crew supplies, science experiments and other hardware.

Following its departure, the spacecraft is expected to deploy several CubeSats located in an externally-mounted deployer.

After all of its post-ISS mission objectives are completed, the spacecraft’s engine is expected to perform a deorbit burn to fall out of orbit and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere somewhere over the south Pacific Ocean.

This was the 15th Cygnus spacecraft to visit the ISS, the fourth under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The next Cygnus resupply mission, NG-16, is currently expected as early as August 2021.

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Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity.

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