cygnus rocket iss

ISS receives bumper Easter package of food and tools

Image credit: reuters

A rocket has launched carrying essential supplies to the ISS, including over 800 meals for the astronauts and equipment for conducting various scientific experiments.

Northrop Grumman’s C rocket blasted off from Wallops Island, Virginia, carrying the company’s Cygnus capsule. It is due to arrive at the space station on Friday.

While there is no Easter ham or lamb on board, Nasa said that plenty of cargo heading towards the space station’s six residents, including smoked turkey, pork chops, and asparagus.

In addition to the food supplies, the 3,450kg load includes a fleet of small robots designed to perform various jobs aboard the space station.

Nasa will test Astrobee, a robotic system comprised of three cube-shaped robots and a docking station for recharging; the first two are aboard Cygnus. The free-flying robots use electric fans for propulsion and cameras and sensors help them navigate their surroundings.

The robots also have an arm to grasp station handrails or grab and hold items. Astrobee can operate in automated mode or under remote control from the ground as it assists with routine chores on station and requires no supervision from the crew.

The capsule also holds 40 black laboratory mice which will be studied to see how their immune system responds to being in space. This experiment should give scientists a better understanding of how the human immune system adapts in low-gravity scenarios.

A bio-analyser is included in the cargo ship that allows body fluids to be tested onboard the station in a matter of hours. Blood, saliva, and urine can all be tested with just a few drops to determine blood cell counts in a matter of hours, eliminating the need to freeze samples to be sent back down to Earth.

This particular Cygnus is named the SS Roger Chaffee, after the youngest of the three astronauts who died in the 1967 Apollo 1 spacecraft fire. Northrop Grumman said it is honouring Chaffee ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, because he made the ultimate sacrifice without ever reaching space.

Another space station delivery should be coming by the end of the month.

Nasa’s other commercial shipper, SpaceX, is due to launch a shipment from Florida on 26 April.

SpaceX Dragon capsules have been making station deliveries since 2012 and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus capsules since 2013.

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