Northrop Grummans Resupply Spacecraft

Cargo mission reaches ISS despite solar array mishap

Image credit: Northrop Grumman

A mission to send fresh supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) was completed last night despite the capsule’s solar array failing to open properly.

The SS Sally Ride Cygnus spacecraft, developed by Northrop Grumman, was launched with an Antares rocket on Monday from Wallops Island, Virginia.

But the cargo delivery to crew aboard the ISS faced issues after one of its two solar arrays did not deploy as planned.

Despite the mishap, Northrop Grumman worked with Nasa to ensure Cygnus completed its primary mission of delivering approximately 3,700kg of supplies, equipment and experiments for the astronauts aboard the station.

Amongst the delivery were brackets needed for a spacewalk next week to expand the station’s power, as well as apples, blueberries, cheese, peanut butter and ice cream for the station’s US, Russian and Japanese crew of seven.

“During a rocket stage separation event, debris from an Antares acoustic blanket became lodged in one of the Cygnus solar array mechanisms, preventing it from opening,” said Cyrus Dhalla, vice-president and general manager, tactical space systems at Northrop Grumman.

“Successful berthing was achieved thanks to Cygnus’s robust design and the resilience and ingenuity of the Nasa and Northrop Grumman teams.”

If requested by Nasa, the resupply mission may also perform one or more reboosts to the ISS to help it maintain its orbit.

Each Cygnus spacecraft is named in honour of an individual who has made significant contributions to the US space programme and human spaceflight.

For the latest mission, Cygnus commemorates former astronaut Dr Sally Ride – the first American woman in space. She travelled aboard the second flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. She also served as a mission specialist on STS-41G and was considered a leader in the Nasa community after retiring.

The SS Sally Ride will remain attached to the space station for approximately three months before departing with roughly 3700kg of disposal cargo.

Last month, China launched the third module for its rival Tiangong space station, which has been designed to allow scientists to carry out experiments in zero gravity.

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