WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A Northrop Grumman-built Cygnus cargo ship blasted off from Virginia Tuesday night (Aug. 10), carrying vital supplies for astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).
Perched atop a two-stage Antares rocket, the uncrewed Cygnus NG-16 spacecraft — the heaviest Cygnus spacecraft yet — blasted off from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia at 6:01 p.m. EDT (2201 GMT) on Tuesday evening, the end of the planned five-minute window.
It was nothing but clear skies in Virginia this evening as the 139-foot-tall (43 meters) Antares rocket leaped off its launch pad. A possible wayward boat and a Helium valve issue almost thwarted today’s launch attempt, but the teams were able to work through the issues and it made for a beautiful launch.
“And we have liftoff of Antares for the NG-16 mission,” NASA’s launch director said from mission control at Wallops during a live broadcast of the launch. “The S.S. Ellison Onizuka is now on its way to the International Space Station to deliver more than 8,200 pounds of cargo,” added NASA public affairs officer Courtney Beasley, who provided live commentary from Mission Control in Houston.
The craft is hauling more than 4 tons (3,719 kilograms) of scientific equipment and supplies for the Expedition 65 astronauts onboard the space station. It’s also packed with new hardware and other equipment for the station’s upgraded solar arrays.
Dubbed NG-16, the mission is Northrop Grumman’s 15th operational resupply launch to the space station since 2014 and is now the fifth Antares to fly in the more capable 230+ configuration. This configuration allows for payloads to be loaded onto the spacecraft later than usual, which means more science.
“I’m really looking forward to our sweet 16 mission [on Tuesday],” Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager for tactical space at Northrop Grumman, said during a prelaunch news conference on Monday (Aug. 9). “Northrop Grumman is happy to support NASA and our commercial partners as we continue the journey in human space exploration.”
The rocket’s first stage is powered by two Russian-made RD-181 engines which are fueled by rocket-grade kerosene, enabling them to produce 864,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff. The first stage separated from the rocket’s upper stage just over three minutes into flight.
Shortly after, the payload fairing jettisoned, leaving the Cygnus exposed to space. Powered by a solid-fueled upper stage, the Cygnus was deposited in its preliminary orbit and ready…