This Thursday, Northrop Grumman will launch a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) carrying not only supplies for the crew, but also new science experiments to be tested out in the microgravity environment. With a total of 8,000 pounds of cargo, the Cygnus will be launched on an Antares rocket from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
This will be Northrop Grumman’s 14th resupply mission to the ISS, and you can watch the launch and the arrival of the Cygnus at the ISS live.
When is the launch?
The launch will take place at 6:38 p.m. PT on Thursday, October, from Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. Coverage of the launch will begin at 6:00 p.m. PT. The launch was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was scrapped due to unfavorable weather conditions.
The Cygnus craft will travel to the ISS over the next several days before arriving at the ISS early next week. NASA will show the arrival of the craft at the ISS.
How to watch the launch
The launch and the spacecraft’s arrival at the ISS will both be shown on NASA TV, which you can watch on NASA’s website or using the video embedded at the top of this post.
NASA is also offering virtual launch coverage, as people cannot attend the event in person due to coronavirus restrictions. The virtual launch includes sending out mission updates, resources about the launch, and a behind the scenes look at the launch. You can register for the virtual event by registering for email updates or RSVPing to the Facebook event. There’s also a virtual launch passport which will be “stamped” with an emailed stamp after the event.
Although NASA says the visitor center at Wallops will not be open for this event, there is a chance to see the launch from home if you live in the mid-Atlantic region and possibly along the East Coast of the U.S., depending on the weather. For more information about potential viewing locations, see NASA’s website.
About the launch
As well as supplies for the crew, the Cygnus spacecraft will carry more than 20 payloads of scientific research experiments and technology demonstrations to be conducted on the space station.
This includes a new 360-degree camera to capture footage from spacewalks, which will aid in creating virtual reality footage of the astronauts at work outside the station. This footage will be released to the public in a VR experience about life on the space station and how the astronauts prepare for a spacewalk.
Another experiment called Reduced Gravity Gecko Adhesion docking Experiments (REGGAE) aims to practice automated docking between two satellites, in order to help clean up the problem of space debris. The “chaser” satellite is covered in a dry adhesive inspired by gecko feet and will try to catch the target satellite, so it can reel in and dispose of pieces of space debris.
Other projects include sending along a small payload called SharkSat attached to the Cygnus craft which will collect telemetry data to test new sensor technologies, and a sending a ceramic manufacturing facility called the Turbine Ceramic Manufacturing Module (Turbine CMM) which can create turbine parts called blisks for use in jet engines.
Finally, the ISS is getting an upgraded toilet, part of the new Universal Waste Management System (UWMS) which could be used in the low-gravity environment of the moon as well as the microgravity environment of the ISS. The new toilet is designed to be more comfortable to use, especially for female crew members, and also has an automatic system rather than the on/off switch used in the current design. The idea is to test the new system for several years on the ISS, with the potential to use the same design for future moon missions if everything goes well.