Spaceflight Insider

Orbital ATK names next Cygnus after John Glenn

Cygnus OA-7

Cygnus OA-7 / S.S. John Glenn. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Orbital ATK announced that it has named the next Cygnus spacecraft to be sent to the International Space Station after former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, who died on Dec. 8, 2016, at the age of 95.

The S.S. John Glenn will be launched during a 30-minute window that starts at 10:56 p.m. EDT March 19 (02:56 GMT March 20), 2017, atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. It will take about three days for the spacecraft to reach the ISS, where it will be captured by the station’s robotic Canadarm2 to be berthed to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

S.S. John Glenn / Cygnus OA-7

S.S. John Glenn / Cygnus OA-7. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

Orbital ATK names all of their ISS cargo freighters after former astronauts. The OA-7 mission is the second Cygnus to be named after a member of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, the previous was after Deke Slayton.

Other Cygnus have been named for George Low, Charles Fullerton, Janice Voss, Rick Husband, and Alan Poindexter, all of whom flew during the Space Shuttle program.

Glenn was born on July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio. He was a decorated combat veteran of both World War II and the Korean War; in 1959, he was selected by NASA as part of the U.S.’ first set of astronauts.

Rocketing into the history books on Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Riding a Mercury-Atlas rocket, his one-man Friendship 7 capsule orbited the planet three times before splashing down in the North Atlantic Ocean.

After resigning from NASA in 1964, he went on to run for a U.S. Senate seat from Ohio. However, an injury that year forced an early withdraw. He lost a close election for the same seat in 1970.

In 1974 he won his first election and served for 24 years. Glenn even had an unsuccessful bid for president in 1984.

While he was a Senator, he became the oldest person to fly in space at the age of 77 during Space Shuttle Discovery’s STS-95 mission, a record that has yet to be broken. In October 1998, he spent just over nine days orbiting Earth. He was also the only member of the original Mercury astronauts to fly on the Space Shuttle.

Having an internal volume of 950 cubic feet (27 cubic meters), the 21-foot (6.4-meter) long, 10-foot (3.1-meter) wide craft will carry some 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of supplies and experiments for Expedition 50 and future ISS crews.

Among the experiments on board is the third Saffire payload. This flame experiment is part of an ongoing series to study the effects of fire in microgravity. It is the largest flame-experiment in the history of space exploration.

Saffire-III will be remotely activated after the cargo portion of the mission concludes, some 90-days after arriving at the ISS. Once Cygnus is unberthed and moved a safe distance away from the outpost, the experiment will be performed and results downloaded via telemetry before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Also on board the S.S. John Glenn is the Reentry Data Collection (RED-Data-2) flight recorder. It will provide data about the conditions the spacecraft will encounter during its destructive re-entry.

Finally, a NanoRacks deployer on the exterior of the spacecraft will release a number of CubeSats.

When it launches, the OA-7 Cygnus will be the third to use a ULA Atlas V. It will fly out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.

Cygnus OA-7

Cygnus OA-7 / S.S. John Glenn. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider




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 website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

Reader Comments

I think you might wish to mention the reason Orbital ATK is using the Atlas V rocket is by request of NASA. The Antares 200 rocket was qualified and launched 17 October 2016 with a Cygnus spacecraft. However the Antares 200 launched Cygnus has a maximum of 7,100 lb payload while the Atlas V 401 Antares has a 7,700 lb payload maximum.

Apparently the additional payload was considered worth the added expense of using the Atlas V launcher.

Why isn’t Orbital ATK using the Antares rocket as their launch vehicle this time?

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