Home / News / Observe the launch of a Northrop Grumman resupply mission to the International Space Station by SpaceX

Observe the launch of a Northrop Grumman resupply mission to the International Space Station by SpaceX

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman are collaborating to transport over 8,000 pounds of cargo, including fresh food and scientific experiments, to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The NG-20 resupply mission is scheduled to launch from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at approximately 12:07 PM EST. The Cygnus cargo capsule from Northrop is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on February 1st.

Northrop has been consistently utilizing its Antares rocket to launch Cygnus spacecraft for resupply missions to the ISS since 2013. Only two missions deviated from this pattern and employed a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 instead. However, Northrop retired the previous version of Antares last year. The upcoming version, known as Antares 330, is being developed in collaboration with Firefly Aerospace and is expected to be operational by mid-2025.

Northrop and SpaceX have secured lucrative contracts with NASA to conduct cargo resupply missions to the ISS. As part of its contract, SpaceX will utilize its Dragon capsule for this upcoming launch, marking the first occasion that a Cygnus will be sent into space.

The utilization of Falcon 9 by Northrop, without any alterations to Cynus as stated by Northrop VP Cyrus Dahlia in a recent press briefing, highlights the significant role both companies play in advancing American civil space endeavors.

SpaceX successfully made adjustments to its hardware to accommodate the spacecraft. According to William Gerstenmaier, SpaceX’s VP of build and flight reliability, the company installed a 5 feet by 4 feet hatch to the payload fairing. This modification allowed for a “late load” of cargo. Adding materials to the spacecraft, such as ice cream, was made possible by loading the cargo during the final stages of mission preparations or within 24 hours of launch, even after the spacecraft was encapsulated in the fairing.

Incorporating the “gigadoor” into the fairing, as Gerstenmaier described, poses a significant challenge due to the need to maintain precise environmental conditions for the contents inside.

“That activity seems quite rigorous,” he remarked. “We have made significant modifications to the hardware to ensure its readiness for flight.”

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to stay connected to the International Space Station for approximately six months. When connected, the Cygnus spacecraft has the ability to utilize its thrusters to increase the station’s altitude. This is a crucial feature that sets Cygnus apart, as it allows it to counteract the effects of atmospheric drag. Upon completion of its mission, astronauts will load the spacecraft with waste and various debris, which will undergo combustion upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

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