Cygnus Spacecraft Loaded With Ice Cream And Stardust Launches Friday To The Space Station

The mission was originally supposed to take off tomorrow morning, but was pushed back 24 hours.

NASA

The mission was originally supposed to take off tomorrow morning, but was pushed back 24 hours.

The Cygnus cargo ship scheduled to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) is all packed and ready to go. But it looks like the astronauts on board the orbital outpost will have to wait an extra day before they can get their hands on the goods delivered by Northrop Grumman.

Although originally scheduled to depart for the ISS on November 15, the Cygnus spacecraft will remain grounded until Friday on account of bad weather, the U.S.-based space company just announced on Twitter.

The cargo vessel was supposed to take off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility bright and early tomorrow morning, at 4:49 a.m. EST. Instead, the trip to space has been delayed 24 hours.

Northrop Grumman and NASA now target an early-morning spaceflight on November 16, with a five-minute launch window opening at 4:23 a.m. EST. As planned, the Cygnus cargo ship will blast off into space atop a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, taking off from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

This is the company’s 10th resupply mission to the space station — the previous one launched in late May — also with a 24-hour delay — as reported by the Inquisitr at the time. Loaded with 7,500 pounds of research supplies, crew supplies, and hardware — the Cygnus spacecraft will arrive at the ISS three days after launch, NASA stated last week.

Once its journey comes to an end, the cargo ship will be captured by the station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, and will be given a parking place at the Unity module — the second element of the orbiting lab to be launched into space 20 years ago, as the Inquisitr recently detailed.

“Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA will grapple the spacecraft using the station’s robotic arm. She will be backed up by Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), who will monitor Cygnus systems during its approach. After capture, ground controllers will command the robotic arm to rotate and install Cygnus on the bottom of the station’s Unity module,” NASA officials said in a statement.

Ice Cream And Stardust Delivery

Dubbed CRS-10, the current Cygnus mission will deliver an exciting array of science experiments to the ISS.

“The craft’s cargo includes several tons of crew supplies and science experiments ranging from 3D printing and recycling to simulating the creation of celestial bodies from stardust,” NASA reported at the beginning of the month.

Among the experiments heading out into space is a project focused on growing large crystals of a special type of protein involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease. Known as the CASIS PCG-16 investigation, this experiment “could help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it,” NASA explained.

Artist's depiction of the Cygnus commercial spacecraft.
Artist’s depiction of the Cygnus commercial spacecraft. Raymond Cassel / Shutterstock

Another project currently stored in the cargo hold of the Cygnus spacecraft is a shipment of fake stardust. The experiment is called EXCISS, and aims to unlock some of the mysteries of the early solar system by studying the simulated stardust in a high-energy, low-gravity environment — consistent with the conditions that were present during the birth of our planets.

Other science experiments that are about to get a ride to space include a VR investigation into how sensory input changes in microgravity, a study on calcium-silica membranes that could be used to remove carbon dioxide from waste gases — and thereby curb greenhouse gas emissions — and a project that studies how cement solidifies in space, with the end-goal of one day producing “safer, lightweight space habitats” for future missions on other planets.

Last, but not least — Cygnus is sending an integrated 3D printer and recycler to space. This will serve as the first such unit to ever be shipped to the ISS.

“It recycles waste plastic materials into high-quality 3D-printer filament, which could enable sustainable fabrication, repair, and recycling on long-duration space missions,” explained NASA.

But not all of the items loaded on the Cygnus capsule are reserved for work. Northrop Grumman has prepared a little surprise for the astronauts — and is sending them a supply of fresh fruit and ice cream, according to a Twitter post.

Once Cygnus delivers the goods and completes its mission to the ISS, the cargo ship is scheduled to deploy three CubeSats above and below the space station — “a first for the spacecraft,” Northrop Grumman announced in a separate Twitter post.

At the end of the mission, the Cygnus spacecraft — named S.S. John Young, in honor of the late astronaut — will head back home with a load of trash from the ISS. Since the capsule is not built to be reusable, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, Cygnus will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere during re-entry — disposing of its cargo and thereby performing yet another service to the space station.