NG-18 Cygnus freighter will launch new science to the ISS

The Antares rocket with the NG-18 Cygnus spacecraft is ready for launch at Wallops Island, Virginia. Credit: Steve Hammer / Spaceflight Insider

Northrop Grumman and NASA are about to fly the NG-18 Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station from Wallops Island, Virginia.

Atop liftoff of an Antares 230+ rocket is scheduled for 5:50 a.m. EST on November 6, 2022, from Pad 0A at the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The NG-18 Cygnus spacecraft, dubbed SS Sally Ride, is expected to take several days to reach the ISS before being captured by robotics Canadarm2 and docked at the outpost.

This launch is expected to be the first of two remaining Antares launches in the 230+ configuration. Due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Northrop Grumman is unable to procure additional first stages and its engines.

The latest first stage of the Antares 230+ series, as well as the Castor 30XL upper stage, are waiting in their hangar to be launched next year.  Credit: Steve Hammer / Spaceflight Insider

The latest first stage of the Antares 230+ series, as well as the Castor 30XL upper stage, are waiting in their hangar to be launched next year. Credit: Steve Hammer / Spaceflight Insider

The central structures and thruster systems of the Antares 230+ first stage are manufactured by Yuzhmash State Enterprise under the design authority of Yuzhnoye SDO in Dnipro, Ukraine. In addition, the RD-181 engines used on the first stage are manufactured by the Russian company Energomash and the delivery of these has been stopped under Russian sanctions against the United States.

In August, Northrop Grumman announced a partnership with Firefly Aerospace to build a new Antares first-stage core. The new vehicle will be known as the Antares 330 and is expected to use Firefly’s composite technology and seven Miranda engines on the first stage. This will extend the nearly year-long relationship between the two companies to build a new medium launch vehicle.

The 230+ and 330 will use a Northrop Grumman Castor 30XL engine for the second stage. The Castor engine family was originally developed in the late 1950s for the Scout and Little Joe programs, which were also launched from Wallops. The 30XL uses a solid propellant and evolved from the historic CASTOR 120 engine used on Minotaur-C launch vehicles.

Video courtesy of Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman honors astronaut Sally Ride as it continues its tradition of naming spacecraft Cygnus for pioneers of the aerospace industry.

In 1983, Ride became the first American female astronaut to serve on the crew of the second Challenger mission, STS-7. After a career at NASA, she became a champion for diversity and worked to inspire girls and boys from all walks of life to imagine themselves in careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

According to International Space Station program associate scientist Heidi Parris, the NG-18 Cygnus payload will include nearly 1,800 pounds (800 kilograms) of hardware and samples to support about 40 different surveys, 20 of which are of all new studies.

In addition to science, there are crew provisions and materials for space station upgrades, including support for the installation of new solar panels.

Antares sits in a horizontal position to allow last minute items to be loaded into the Cygnus spacecraft.  Credit: Steve Hammer / Spaceflight Insider

Antares sits in a horizontal position to allow last minute items to be loaded into the Cygnus spacecraft. Credit: Steve Hammer / Spaceflight Insider

Some of the rising sciences are as follows:

Catastrophic mudslides after forest fire

Wildfires have increased around the world, leading to damaging debris flows. These differ from normal mudslides in that they contain water-repellent hydrophobic particles. Ingrid Tomac, assistant professor in the department of structural engineering at the University of California, San Diego, explains: “We would like to better understand how the air trapped in the mud flows after a wildfire connects to the sand particles” , and “the removal of gravity could therefore provide insight into the dynamics of the internal structure of these sand-water-air mixtures and a baseline for their behavior.

Bioprinting fabrics

Redwire is sending several devices and supplies to the ISS to bioprint a human knee meniscus for Uniformed Services University. Among the devices sent are the recently upgraded Biofabrication Facility, which is a 3D printer capable of manufacturing human tissue in microgravity, and the Advanced Space Experiments Processor, which can be used to conduct various life science research and in physical sciences and in small batches. production. Additionally, the company will create organelles that can be used to test the effectiveness of drugs.

First satellites from Uganda and Zimbabwe

Birds-5 is a CubeSat constellation performing multispectral Earth observations using a commercially available camera. The constellation will consist of PEARLAFRICASAT-1, the first satellite developed by Uganda; ZIMSAT-1, Zimbabwe’s first satellite; and TAKA from Japan. These satellites will provide a wide range of land use data, including information that could help predict debris flows.

Plant Habitat-03 – Assess how plants adapt to space

This investigation involves an area of ​​bioscience called epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how behaviors and the environment can cause changes that affect how genes work. The study will examine the changes that occur in plants in space with the aim of observing changes over several generations of plants.

OVASPACE – Development of ovarian cells in microgravity

This is a study on the influence of microgravity on the growth and maturation of ovarian cells conducted by NASA and the Italian Space Agency. It will provide relevant information for future extended space settlements.

The Antares launch will take place just a few hundred meters from where the very first rockets were launched at the historic Wallops Island facility in 1945. This will mark Northrop Grumman’s 18th commercial resupply services mission for The NASA.

Video courtesy of ISS National Laboratory


Steve moved to central Virginia from suburban Atlanta. He studied United States history, geography, and social sciences at Virginia Tech and began teaching in the Southampton County public school system in the Tidewater area of ​​Virginia. There he developed a passion for photography focusing on transportation and all things historical. With the encouragement of his family and friends, he returned to central Virginia where he currently lives and works as a computer science teacher. In his spare time, Steve enjoys spending time with his family and exploring beautiful Virginia County with his camera.

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