Northrop Grumman’s NG 12 paints the sky in honor of an American legend
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program continues to send payloads arcing across the sky. Today Northrop Grumman did it again, this one’s orbital trajectory was marked – with a paintbrush.
Each of the prior 12 Cygnus spacecraft that have been launched, took to the skies from either the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport ‘ Pad-0A or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41, in Florida. NG-12, the thirteenth Cygnus launched, took to the skies from Pad 0A at 9:59 a.m. EDT (1359 GMT).
Packed with an estimated 8,200 pounds (3,719 kg) worth of crew supplies, cargo, experiments and hardware Cygnus NG-12, NASA said it was possible to see the Antares 230 launch vehicle as it burned its way aloft from as much as five states away or about 175 miles (281 km).
One of the more interesting parts of the spacecraft’s payload is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02. This experiment has been designed to look for evidence of dark, strange and anti-matter. The ISS’ mission is designed to serve as a platform to develop new methods to utilize the unique nature of the micro-gravity environment as well as to continue humanity’s exploration of the cosmos. With this a
This particular Antares will be the first one to fly with several upgrades. The first stage of the rocket has been strengthened and it will no longer be necessary for the booster to throttle down its engines when passing through maximum dynamic pressure, also known as Max Q. This version of Antares will be lighter as unneeded parts have been removed.
Another upgrade relates to Cygnus and its separation altitude. Northrop Grumman engineers have tweaked the rocket’s trajectory so that Cygnus will separate from the second stage at lower altitude than during previous launches. Cygnus will raise its orbit using its on-board thrusters and propellant. This will not only be the heaviest Cygnus to launch on Antares but also the heaviest ISS resupply spacecraft to ever be launched by the United States.
Saturday’s flight was the first conducted by Northrop Grumman under the Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract the Virginia-based company has entered into with NASA.
Each cargo freighter has born the name of either an astronaut or a prominent figure within the space industry who has passed away.
The NG-12 Cygnus was christened in honor of Apollo astronaut Alan Bean. Bean was a member of the “elite” of the elite – he was a Moonwalker. As a member of Apollo 12, Bean served as the Lunar Module Pilot and called the Moon’s Ocean of Storms home for a little more than 10 hours. Bean would travel once more into space, as part of the Skylab 3 crew. He retired from NASA in 1981.
After his time as an astronaut, Bean turned to one of his passions – painting. A good portion of his work consisted of images of the Apollo Program. In fact, some of his highly-textured works include lunar dust and patches he used on Apollo 12.
The spacecraft will chase the Station for two days and meet up it Monday Nov. 4. Astronauts on the Space Station will use the Station’s robotic arm to grab Cygnus and berth it onto the Station.
With its mission complete, Cygnus will depart from the Station in January, carrying trash and other items no longer needed by the crew. From there, it will release several Cubesats before ultimately meeting a fiery fate during a destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean.
Video courtesy of NASA
Patrick Attwell is a native of Houston, Texas but he currently resides in Austin, Texas where he studies accounting at Concordia University Texas. Atwell has had a passion for all things pertaining to aerospace, rocketry, and aviation. Atwell has worked to cover these fields for more than a decade. After he attended and watched the launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission it gave him what is known in the space community as “rocket fever.” Since that time, Atwell has followed his dreams and has covered events dealing with NASA’s Commercial Crew flight assignments at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and other space-related events in the Lone Star State.