Spaceflight Insider

Blue skies welcome NG-16 Cygnus cargo ship, now en route to ISS

The Antares rocket with the NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft lifts off pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia, to begin its journey to the International Space Station. Credit: Theresa Cross / Spaceflight Insider

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — Northrop Grumman’s NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station following a successful launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Liftoff of the 139-foot-tall (42.5-meter-tall) Antares 230+ rocket with the NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft took place at 6:01 p.m. EDT (22:01 UTC) Aug. 10, 2021, from Pad-0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located on Wallops Island in Virginia.

Antares with NG-16 Cygnus soars toward space. Credit: Mark Usciak / Spaceflight Insider

Antares with NG-16 Cygnus soars toward space. Credit: Mark Usciak / Spaceflight Insider

The spacecraft, with 8,200 pounds (7,300 kilograms) of equipment and science, is slated to rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory on Aug. 12.

NG-16 Cygnus was named SS Ellison Onizuka in honor of the first Asian-American astronaut. Onizuka first mission to space was aboard space shuttle Discovery’s STS-51-C mission in January 1985, which lasted just over three days.

Onizuka’s second flight was aboard the ill-fated STS-51-L space shuttle Challenger mission, which broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff, killing him and his six crew mates.

This resupply mission is the 16th overall by the spacecraft and the fifth for Northrop Grumman under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract, CRS2.

NG-16 Cygnus is set to deliver food, fuel and other supplies, including station upgrade hardware, to the International Space Station.

After spending about a day and a half in orbit around Earth, the Cygnus spacecraft is set to rendezvous with the ISS in the early-morning hours of Aug. 12 where it is expected to position itself some 30 feet (about 10 meters) beneath the Destiny Laboratory module.

From there the robotic Canadarm2 remote manipulator system, under the control of NASA astronaut and ISS Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Megan McArthur, will capture the spacecraft at about 6:10 a.m. EDT (10:10 UTC).

Over the course of several hours, it’ll be remotely maneuvered by ground-based teams to its berthing location at the Earth-facing port of the Unity module where it will remain until November.

Resupply missions to the International Space Station from the United States are important as it significantly increases NASA’s ability to perform critical scientific research and investigations off Earth.

An overview of the NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft. Credit: Derek Richardson / Spaceflight Insider / Orbital Velocity

An overview of the NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft. Credit: Derek Richardson / Spaceflight Insider / Orbital Velocity

Each unique mission offers opportunities for in-depth dives into areas of biology, biotechnology, Earth and space science, physical sciences, and new technology development from the floating space lab.

For this mission, NG-16 Cygnus is set to deliver experiments that include 3D printing with simulated regolith (rock, dust and other loose material on the ground of places like the Moon and Mars), specifically-engineered human tissue to assist with studying muscle loss and algae experiments analyzing the growth of slime mold — all while orbiting planet Earth at a speed of some 17,500 mph (28,100 kilometers per hour) aboard the International Space Station.

Cygnus is also carrying a new bracket to mount on the side of the station’s backbone truss that astronauts are expected to install during a spacewalk planned for later this month that will enable the installation of one of the next pair of new solar arrays.

Video courtesy of NASA

Video courtesy of Orbital Velocity


Theresa Cross grew up on the Space Coast. It’s only natural that she would develop a passion for anything “Space” and its exploration. During these formative years, she also discovered that she possessed a talent and love for defining the unique quirks and intricacies that exist in mankind, nature, and machines. Hailing from a family of photographers—including her father and her son, Theresa herself started documenting her world through pictures at a very early age. As an adult, she now exhibits an innate photographic ability to combine what appeals to her heart and her love of technology to deliver a diversified approach to her work and artistic presentations. Theresa has a background in water chemistry, fluid dynamics, and industrial utility.

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