Minimize ISS Utilization: Cygnus NG-10

ISS Utilization: Cygnus NG-10 resupply flight to the ISS (previously known as CRS OA-10E)

Cygnus NG-10 is the 11th planned flight of the Northrop Grumman unmanned resupply Cygnus spacecraft and its 10th flight to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services Contract with NASA.

Launch: The NIGS (Northrop Grumman Innovation System) Antares 230 vehicle has launched the Cygnus NG-10, named the S.S. John Young, on its way to the International Space Station from MARS (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport) Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. Liftoff of Antares occurred on 17 November 2018, at 04:01:22 EST (09:01:22 UTC). 1)

Orbit: Near-circular orbit of the ISS, altitude of ~400 km, inclination = 51.6º, period = 93 minutes.

Note: In June 2018, Northrop Grumman acquired Orbital ATK. Since then, Orbital ATK is NGIS ( Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems), a new, fourth business sector of Northrop Grumman.

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Figure 1: The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus resupply spacecraft aboard, launched from Pad-0A, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia (image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The Cygnus cargo ship is carrying about 3,356 kg of new experiments, food and other supplies for the three-person Expedition 57 crew on the International Space Station, NASA officials said. Cygnus will arrive at the station early Monday (Nov. 19), when it will be captured by astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA with a robotic arm and berthed at an open port on the orbiting lab.

This CRS-10 (Commercial Resupply Services-10) contract mission will support dozens of new and existing investigations as Expeditions 57 and 58 contribute to some 250 science and research studies. Highlights from the new experiments include a demonstration of 3D printing and recycling technology and simulating the creation of celestial bodies from stardust.

Refabricator demonstrates an integrated 3D printer and recycler for the first time aboard the space station. It recycles waste plastic materials into high-quality 3D-printer filament, which could enable sustainable fabrication, repair, and recycling on long-duration space missions. The recycling capability eliminates the need for carrying a large supply of feedstock. Current challenges of this type of 3D printing include quality control and consistency of feedstock material. - The investigation, sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, could be a key technology for in-space manufacturing.

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Figure 2: The Refabricator flight hardware as it appears when installed in the EXPRESS Rack on the space station (image credit: NASA)

Sensory input in microgravity: Changes in sensory input in microgravity may be misinterpreted and cause a person to make errors in estimation of velocity, distance or orientation. VECTION examines this effect as well as whether people adapt to altered sensory input on long-duration missions and how that adaptation changes upon return to Earth. Using a virtual reality display, astronauts estimate the distance to an object, length of an object and orientation of their bodies in space. Tests are conducted before, during and after flight. The investigation is named for a visual illusion of self-movement, called vection, which occurs when an individual is still but sees the world moving past, according to principal investigator Laurence Harris. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) sponsors the investigation.

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Figure 3: Image astronauts see in a virtual reality headset from one of the tests to estimate distance as part of the VECTION experiment (image credit: NASA)

Solidifying cement in space: The MVP-Cell 05 investigation uses a centrifuge to provide a variable gravity environment to study the complex process of cement solidification, a step toward eventually making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies. These tests are a follow-on to the previous studies known as MICS (Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification), which studied cement solidification in microgravity. Together, these tests will help engineers better understand the microstructure and material properties of cement, leading to design of safer, lightweight space habitats and improving cement processing techniques on Earth. This investigation is sponsored by NASA.

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Figure 4: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst works on earlier research on the cement hardening process in space (image credit: NASA)

Concrete is second only to water in terms of use by humanity. Given the volume of cement and concrete used worldwide, the MICS-MVP project could have rapid scientific, commercial, and humanitarian impacts, as even a small gain in concrete technology advancement could have enormous implications on its future use and manufacturing process. 2)

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Figure 5: MVP module showing the foam insert and slots for two MICS cement packets (image credit: Techshot, Inc.)

The study will use a centrifuge to simulate different gravity levels on cement samples allowing researchers to better understand conditions that would be experienced on extraterrestrial bodies, like the Moon and Mars. PI: Alexandra Radlinska, PhD., Pennsylvania State University.

Successful completion of the MICS-MVP study will provide answers to fundamental questions related to cement solidification between 0 and 1g and fully complement the initial MICS investigation. Through subsequent microstructural analysis, researchers will have a much clearer picture of crystal growth on the Moon and Mars and the necessary baseline information regarding the use of cementitious materials on extraterrestrial bodies.

From stardust to solar systems: Much of the universe was created when dust from star-based processes clumped into intermediate-sized particles and eventually became planets, moons and other objects. Many questions remain as to just how this worked, though. The EXCISS (Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station) investigation seeks answers by simulating the high-energy, low gravity conditions that were present during formation of the early solar system. Scientists plan to zap a specially formulated dust with an electrical current, then study the shape and texture of pellets formed.

Principal investigator Tamara Koch (Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany) explains that the dust is made up of particles of forsterite (Mg2SiO4), the main mineral in many meteorites and related to olivine, also known as the gemstone peridot. The particles are about the diameter of a human hair. The ISS National Lab sponsors the EXCISS investigation.

Growing crystals to fight Parkinson's disease: The CASIS PCG-16 (Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2) investigation grows large crystals of an important protein LRRK2 (Leucine-Rich Repeat Kinase 2) in microgravity for analysis back on Earth. This protein is implicated in development of Parkinson's disease, and defining its shape and morphology may help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it. Crystals of LRRK2 grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of this research.

Better gas separation membranes: Membranes represent one of the most energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies for separating and removing carbon dioxide from waste gases, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. CEMSICA tests membranes made from particles of calcium-silicate (C-S) with pores 100 nanometers or smaller. Producing these membranes in microgravity may resolve some of the challenges of their manufacture on Earth and lead to development of lower-cost, more durable membranes that use less energy. The technology ultimately may help reduce the harmful effects of CO2 emissions on the planet.

The Cygnus cargo carries more than 400 kg of research and hardware facilities to the orbiting laboratory under the ISS National Laboratory flight allocation. There are presently 12 payloads included on this mission that are sponsored by the ISS National Lab. The research investigations that are part of the ISS National Lab flight manifest represent a diverse group of payloads intended to benefit life on Earth.

This mission also includes an array of CubeSats that will deploy from the space station through commercial service provider NanoRacks. CubeSats on this mission include a project seeking to validate a 3.5 cm2 circuit board called "ChipSat" as well as projects aimed at evaluating how microgravity impacts battery life and Earth observation imaging technology.

Cygnus will stay parked at the space station until February, when it will be filled with trash and released to intentionally burn up in Earth's atmosphere. But before Cygnus destroys itself, it will deploy a series of small, student-built cubesats and 105 tiny "chipsats" — tiny wafer-like satellites that measure just 3.5 cm2 per side.

 

Status of mission:

• On November 19, 2018, the Cygnus NG-10 spacecraft arrived in the vicinity of the ISS. Once Cygnus was within 10 meters of the Destiny module, Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor controlled the 17.6 m long robotic Canadarm2 to grab the cargo freighter from its free-flight state. Capture was confirmed at 5:28 a.m. EST (10:28 GMT). 3)

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Figure 6: The NG-10 Cygnus being moved to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module following capture (image credit: NASA)

- Tamara York radioed from Mission Control Houston. "As we gather this week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station and the spirit of exploration it represents, we celebrate today, the mission of the S.S. John Young, reaffirming that the spirit of exploration is alive and well today and will be instilled in the generations to come. Congratulations to the NG-10 team."

- The NG-10 Cygnus was named in honor of former astronaut John Young, who flew during the Gemini, Apollo and early Space Shuttle eras and was NASA's longest-serving astronaut having been part of the space agency from 1962 to 2004. He died Jan. 5, 2018, in Houston at age 87 due to complications from pneumonia.

- Serena Auñón-Chancellor concurred with the accolades, adding her thanks to the multiple people and engineers on the ground who built and launched the commercial spacecraft. "Cygnus has not only brought us very important cargo for station operations, but also critical science on multiple fronts including tissue on a chip and protein crystal growth, which could help find a cure for Parkinson's disease," Auñón-Chancellor said. "To John Young's family and especially Susy [Young's widow], the Expedition 57 is proud to have the S.S. John Young with us on orbit. John flew on multiple vehicles from Gemini to Apollo and the Space Shuttle, and now he is finally flying a long-duration mission on the International Space Station. It is our honor, and we want to thank you for sharing a part of him today."

- Using the robotic arm, Cygnus was positioned under the Earth-facing port of the Unity module (Node 1). It was firmly attached at 7:31 a.m. EST (12:31 GMT). Hatches between the spacecraft and space station are expected to be opened later today following leak checks.

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Figure 7: The NG-10 Cygnus is berthed to the Unity module (image credit: NASA)

 


1) Melissa Gaskill, "NASA, Northrop Grumman Launch Space Station, National Lab Cargo," NASA Release 18-100, 17 November 2018, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-northrop-grumman
-launch-space-station-national-lab-cargo

2) Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications NG-10 Experiments/Payloads," NASA, 1 November 2018, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/space-life-and-physical-sciences
-research-and-applications-ng-10-experimentspayloads

3) Derek Richardson, "NG-10 Cygnus brings experiments, supplies to ISS crew," Spaceflight Insider, 19 November 2018, URL: http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/missions/iss/ng-10-
cygnus-brings-experiments-supplies-to-iss-crew/

 


The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (herb.kramer@gmx.net).