[Update: Launched] Live Blog: Northrop Grumman to launch its 16th Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS for NASA

Northrop Grumman NG-16 Antares

Today Northrop Grumman plans to launch their 16th Cygnus spacecraft from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) for NASA. Today’s mission will see an Antares rocket launch the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station. It will deliver over 3,000 pounds of food, experiments, and other supplies to the station for its crew to use. The spacecraft will also conduct experiments on its way to and after departing the space station.

Date: Tuesday, August 10th at 6:01 p.m. EDT

Rocket: Northrop Grumman Antares 230+

Capsule: Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft (S.S. Ellison Onizuka)

Launch Pad: Launch Pad 0A, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

Landing Site: The Antares rocket will be expended into the Atlantic Ocean.

About Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft

Originally developed by Orbital Sciences, Cygnus was developed for NASA’s first Commercial Resupply Services contract (CRS-1). The capsule is designed to launch on both Orbital’s own Antares rocket and on ULA’s Atlas V rocket but it has not launched on an Atlas since Orbital started flying the 200 series Antares rockets. Now Cygnus and the Antares rocket are built and managed by Northrop Grumman who continue to launch the Cygnus for NASA’s CRS-2 contract.

Who is this Cygnus named after?

Each Cygnus spacecraft is named after a person who has given a great deal of their life to the space industry. This spacecraft is named after Ellison Onizuka, a NASA astronaut and the first Asian-American to go to space. He first launched to space on Space Shuttle Discovery for the STS-51-C mission which deployed a payload for the Department of Defense. Sadly, Onizuka lost his life during the Challenger disaster on STS-51-L along with his 6 other crew members.

About Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket

Originally named the Taurus II, Antares was developed to compete for NASA’s commercial resupply contract. The rocket is a two-stage design with two Russian RD-181 engines on the first stage and a solid Castor 30 upper stage. Antares made its debut launch on April 21, 2013, carrying a mass simulator to orbit. Currently, Antares launches from MARS pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia. Out of 15 launches, the Antares has only failed once and since then the issues have been replaced causing no more concerns for launch.

What is an Antares 230+?

After the failure of an Antares 100 series rocket back in 2014, a redesign took place to fix the issues. The problem was found to be with the old Soviet NK-33 engines being used so they were swapped for Russian RD-181s. Since then the 200 series has taken over for launching its missions. The 30 in the name represents the Castor 30 solid-propellant upper stage and the + indicates this version has structural upgrades.

Live Updates

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:17 p.m. EDT: That will conclude the live coverage of Northrop Grumman’s 16th Cygnus launch. If all goes to plan the Cygnus spacecraft will be caught by the ISS’s Canadarm early Thursday morning.

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:12 p.m. EDT: Cygnus has separated from the Antares rocket into a nominal orbit. It will now begin a 36-hour catch-up to the space station.

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:09 p.m. EDT: Stage 2 burnout. The vehicle will not coast for the next 2 minutes before Cygnus is separated.

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:06 p.m. EDT: Separation of the first and second stages and ignition of the Castor 30 upper stage.

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:05 p.m. EDT: Shutdown of the main engines.

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:03 p.m. EDT: The vehicle is passing through MAX-Q, the highest point of aerodynamic pressures.

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:01 p.m. EDT: Liftoff of the NG-16 mission!

Tuesday, August 10th, 6:00 p.m. EDT: T- 1 minute.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:58 p.m. EDT: T-3 minutes, all systems are green.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:57 p.m. EDT: Vehicle has been switched to internal power.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:55 p.m. EDT: One of the backup computers has gone down, recycle time is 4 minutes.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:51 p.m. EDT: After the final poll we are GO for launch of NG-16.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:46 p.m. EDT: T-15 minutes, no topping will be needed for the helium supply and the Cygnus spacecraft going into launch mode.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:41 p.m. EDT: T-20 minutes until launch of NG-16, still assessing the helium supply anomaly but the launch team is still continuing to get ready for launch.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:31 p.m. EDT: T-30 minutes and counting, range issue has been resolved but we are still looking at the helium supply anomaly.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:29 p.m. EDT: The range is currently intercepting a boat that might have crossed into the security zone.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:18 p.m. EDT: Another concern about the helium supply has been brought up and teams will discuss the concern on a dedicated anomaly channel. Teams don’t have much wiggle room left in the launch window to solve this problem.

Tuesday, August 10th, 5:01 p.m. EDT: T-1 hour till NG-16’s launch. All is still going to plan with the countdown.

Tuesday, August 10th, 4:47 p.m. EDT: Propellent loading has begun.

Tuesday, August 10th, 4:42 p.m. EDT: We have left the hold at T-1 hour and 20 minutes.

Tuesday, August 10th, 4:40 p.m. EDT: Launch teams have been polled and they are all “GO” for propellant loading.

Tuesday, August 10th, 4:30 p.m. EDT: Launch teams received an updated weather report which looks to continue to show good conditions for launch.

Tuesday, August 10th, 4:27 p.m. EDT: The team sent to the pad was able to confirm a leak in a helium tank was causing the anomaly and fixed it. The team will now leave the pad.

Tuesday, August 10th, 4:18 p.m. EDT: New T-0 time has been given, the launch of NG-16 will now be at 6:01:05 p.m. EDT. This was moved from the original 5:56:05 p.m. EDT.

Tuesday, August 10th, 4:09 p.m. EDT: Northrop Grumman will be sending a team out to the pad to check for any noticeable helium leaks.

Tuesday, August 10th, 4:04 p.m. EDT: Just under 2 hours away from the expected lift-off of NG-16, and all has been smooth until recently an anomaly was reported with higher than normal pressures in a helium storage tank.

Tuesday, August 10th, 12:30 p.m. EDT: The rocket is vertical and weather teams have determined we are at an 80% chance of good conditions for launch.

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