American, Russian Cargo Ships Set to Resupply Space Station

Dextre at the end of Canadarm2 preparing to remove cargo from Dragon. (Credit: NASA)

The Expedition 50 crew is gearing up for three different spaceships in two months to resupply the International Space Station. The crew also worked today on a variety of research hardware and practiced an emergency drill.

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Next Cygnus Resupply Mission Set for March

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK has completed a significant mission milestone for NASA’s next International Space Station cargo mission.

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Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-6 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41. (Credit: ULA)

Part 1 of 2

The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world.

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NanoRacks Completes Above Space Station Cygnus CubeSat Deployment

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NanoRacks PR) – On November 25, 2016 NanoRacks successfully deployed four Spire LEMUR-2 CubeSats from Orbital-ATK’s Cygnus Cargo Vehicle from a 500-kilometer orbit, flying high above the International Space Station (ISS) in the first mission of its kind.

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NASA Sets Space Fire in Second Round of Fire Safety Experiments

Sample 7 of the Saffire-II Experiment consists partially of Nomex, a commercially available, flame-resistant material.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Fire safety is a crucial component of space living. As we partner with industry and international space agencies to develop deep space habitation capabilities, we are leveraging every opportunity to validate important habitation-related systems and operations in low-Earth orbit. The second Spacecraft Fire Safety experiment, or Saffire-II, is a fire experiment with nine material swatches that will be ignited in a cargo ship as it orbits Earth. Saffire-II is the second in a series of three fire safety experiments, and builds on the data captured during Saffire-I with an expanded test portfolio of new materials.

Saffire-II launched on OA-5 in October 2016. The nine samples in the experiment kit aboard the Cygnus cargo vehicle include a cotton-fiberglass blend, Nomex, and the same acrylic glass that is used for spacecraft windows. After the spacecraft departs the station, and before its destructive reentry to Earth, mission controllers on the ground will remotely ignite the samples.

Saffire-II mission updates will be added below as data and imagery are returned from the orbiting Cygnus vehicle.

UPDATE

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2106
All updates are posted in Eastern Standard Time

6:00 p.m: The Saffire team has successfully downlinked images from the nine samples tested in Saffire-II. The first sample has a thin sheet of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA), also known as plexiglass, that is being used to ignite Nomex, a commercially available, flame-resistant material that is used on spacecraft for cargo storage bags and as a fire barrier. The second sample is a plexiglass sheet (5 cm wide x 29 cm long x 10 cm wide), a material that is used for spacecraft windows. The Saffire investigators will continue to downlink data and images on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and provide additional updates as they are available.

UPDATE

Monday, Nov. 21, 2016
All updates are posted in Eastern Standard Time

9:30 p.m.: All nine samples have burned and preliminary telemetry indicate that data and images were recorded as expected for all 9 samples and flow visualization. The Saffire-II hardware performed very well and there were no issues. The team will spend tonight downlinking the sensor and image data and begin analysis of the dataset tomorrow morning. Updates on Tuesday will include preliminary sensor data and images from the burns.

8:04 p.m.: Samples 1-6 have been ignited and we’ve captured more than 106,000 images. Samples 1-4 were a silicon material at different thicknesses. Samples 5 and 6 were the same cotton-fiberglass blend that was burned on Saffire-I; one was at the same flow speed as Saffire-I and the other was at the flow speed planned for Saffire-III. Samples 7-9 up next! The images will be downlinked to Orbital ATK overnight and transferred to researchers at NASA-GRC for analysis tomorrow. Initial images will be released as they are available.

7:14 p.m.: We’ve received confirmation that the first Saffire-II test sample has been ignited.

6:04 p.m.: Orbital ATK has confirmed that the Saffire-II experiment is powered and we are receiving telemetry. We remain on track for a 7:00 p.m. sample ignition.

8:22 a.m.: Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency commanded the International Space Station’s Candadarm2 robotic arm to release the Cygnus spacecraft.

Cygnus Departs Space Station, Begins Experiments

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)
The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

DULLES, Va., 21 November 2016 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced that its Cygnus™ spacecraft successfully unberthed from the International Space Station, starting the second phase of its mission before it reenters Earth’s atmosphere. Orbiting on its own, free of the ISS, the “S.S. Alan Poindexter” Cygnus will conduct two secondary mission objectives as part of its flight program: the Saffire-II payload experiment and the deployment of CubeSats to enhance weather forecasting capabilities. This is the second time Orbital ATK will use a Cygnus spacecraft as a platform for conducting science experiments in space.

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Orbital ATK to Launch Next Cygnus on Atlas V

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Despite the successful return to flight of its Antares booster less than three weeks ago, Orbital ATK will launch its next Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station aboard an United Launch Alliance Atlas V.

“Orbital ATK has responded to NASA’s needs for enhanced schedule assurance for cargo deliveries and maximum capacity of critical supplies to the space station in 2017,” the company said in a statement.

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NanoRacks NextGen Platforms and External CubeSat Deployer Arrive at Space Station

nano_racks_logoHOUSTON, Texas, October 24, 2016 (NanoRacks PR) – Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) Sunday early morning after launching Monday night from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.

Onboard Cygnus are four of Spire’s LEMUR-2 CubeSats in a NanoRacks External Deployer, and Black Box, NanoRacks’ NextGen research platform.

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Cygnus Arrives at ISS

iss_10-23-16HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft was berthed to the Unity module of the International Space Station at 10:53 a.m. EDT. The Expedition 49 crew will begin unloading approximately 5,000 pounds of science investigations, food and supplies when the hatch between the newly arrived spacecraft and the Unity module of the space station is opened. The spacecraft is scheduled to spend a little more than a month attached to the station.

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus was launched on the company’s Antares rocket Monday, Oct 17, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will remain attached to Unity until a planned departure in November sends the spacecraft toward a destructive re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere.

For more information about newly arrived science investigations aboard the Cygnus, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

New Research Hardware Delivered to ISS by Cygnus

casis_new_logoWALLOPS ISLAND, VA., October 24, 2016 (CASIS PR) The most recent series of payloads berthed with the International Space Station (ISS)Sunday morning onboard the Orbital ATK Cygnus capsule. Many of the investigations launched from Wallops Island, VA onboard the Antares rocket are sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) is tasked by NASA with managing and promoting research onboard the ISS National Laboratory for the benefit of Earth.

Below provides a summary of the ISS National Laboratory-sponsored payloads delivered today:

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Musk: SpaceX Has Theory on Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly; Sabotage Unlikely

Credit: USLaunchReport.com
Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Remarks attributed to Elon Musk in which he discussed a possible cause of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch pad firexplanomaly leaked out to the public last week after his his presentation before officials at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

“We are close to figuring it out. It might have been formation of solid oxygen in the carbon over-wrap of one of the bottles in the upper stage tanks. If it was liquid it would have been squeezed out but under pressure it could have ignited with the carbon. This is the leading theory right now, but it is subject to confirmation,” Musk is reported to have said.

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The Federation Congratulates Orbital ATK on Antares Launch

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

“The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) congratulates Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Orbital ATK, and NASA, on tonight’s successful launch of the Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo vehicle to the International Space Station,” said Eric Stallmer, president of CSF. “It’s great to see ISS commercial resupply missions flying out of Virginia’s spaceport again, carrying commercial payloads for companies including NanoRacks and CASIS, all working together to expand the commercial space enterprise in low-Earth orbit.”

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is the leading voice for the commercial spaceflight industry. Founded in 2006, CSF and its 70+ members are laying the foundation for a sustainable space economy and democratizing access to space for scientists, educators, civilians, and businesses. CSF members are responsible for the creation of thousands of high-tech jobs driven by billions of dollars in investment. Through the promotion of technology innovation, CSF is guiding the expansion of Earth’s economic sphere, bolstering U.S. leadership in aerospace, and inspiring America’s next generation of engineers and explorers.

Cygnus Carries Science Experiments to Space Station

A burning heptane droplet during the Flame Extinguishing Experiments investigation on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
A burning heptane droplet during the Flame Extinguishing Experiments investigation on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK sent new science experiments to the International Space Station on Sunday aboard its sixth Commercial Resupply Services (CSR) mission. The Cygnus spacecraft blasted off from Wallops Island, Virginia atop an Antares rocket, carrying supplies for the crew along with dozens of experiments, including studies on fire in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, collection of health-related data, and a new way to measure neutrons.

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Antares Makes Spectacular Return to Flight, Cygnus in Orbit

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Orbital ATK’s revamped Antares booster blasted off from Wallops Island, Va., tonight, placing a Cygnus cargo ship bound for the International Space Station into orbit.

Antares made a spectacular nighttime return to flight after being grounded for nearly two years following the explosion of a similar booster in October 2014 that destroyed a Cygnus supply ship.

That failure was blamed on a turbo pump in one of the first stage AJ26 engines, which had been left over from the Soviet Union’s manned lunar program of the early 1970’s.

Orbital ATK has spent nearly two years re-configuring the first stage with newly manufactured RD-181 engines produced by NPO Energomash of Russia. Those engines did their job this evening, getting Antares and Cygnus airborne before giving way to the second stage powered by the CASTOR 30XL engine.

Cygnus is carrying 5,100 lbs worth of equipment, supplies and experiments to astronauts aboard the space station under a contract with NASA.

This is the fifth commercial Cygnus flight to the space station. The first two missions were launched by Antares. While the booster was grounded, Orbital ATK launched a pair of the cargo ships aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V boosters.

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