Photo: NASA 2014
Northrop Grumman had a successful launch of their Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 4:46 PM EDT. On board the Antares is the Cygnus spacecraft, which is carrying almost 7,600 pounds of NASA cargo to the International Space Station with supplies and experiments for the crew on board.
The Antares rocket is designed to be an inexpensive way to launch cargo into space, with the ability to carry up to 8,000 kilograms (or over 17,600 pounds) of cargo into low Earth orbit.
So what happens after the launch? The Cygnus spacecraft will go into a low Earth orbit, or LEO, and autonomously bring itself to the International Space Station so that the robotic arm will be able to grab Cygnus and latch it to the station. Crew members will now not only collect the cargo that was sent up, but dispose of things they no longer need. However, unlike other missions, Cygnus is going to have an extended stay after unberthing from the ISS in order to demonstrate its capability to do so. Once that is complete, Cygnus will head back to Earth so it “can have a destructive reentry above the Pacific Ocean” according to Northrop Grumman.