Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket is getting ready for its next resupply mission to the ISS. In addition to critical cargo, the rocket will send up various science experiments to orbit — including worms and grape juice.
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Northop Grumman is a longtime favorite as far as NASA resupply missions go. The company has been supplying its Antares rockets since the early 2010’s and will continue to do so until at least 2023. This is mostly because this low cost, two stage, middle class rocket is reliable as heck. And in the last two years installed two newly built RD-181 engines to the first stage of its rocket. Its latest payload capacity is now 8,000 kg, helping to get to Low Earth Orbit with ease.
Antares is rarely ever seen nowadays without the Cygnus spacecraft. This is because it’s another reliable craft that already delivered more than 30,000 kg of critical cargo to the ISS during its first contract missions. And its first launch of this year is NG-15, and the capsule this time around is named after mathematician Katherine Johnson, a black woman who played a critical role during the early days of human space flight. And the mission will be carrying a load more of exciting experiments.
Back in 2018, the Materials International Space Station Experiment – Flight Facility, also known as MISSE-FF, was permanently installed outside of the station. It doesn’t do much, just stands still in different directions for periods of time, BUT is probably one of the most vital ongoing experiments aboard the ISS, and that’s because it tests various materials for the harsh environment of space. We’re talking literally any kind of material from paints to solar cells. MISSE-FF is actually part of a longer MISSE series, starting back in 2001 and to date, it’s tested more than 4,000 kinds of materials. Some of which have helped push our understanding of our solar panels. And now they’re sending up phosphor powders and composites that are used for rapid temperature measurement from 0 degrees celsius to 1,200 degrees celsius.
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Katherine Johnson: A Lifetime of STEM
It was this inquisitive nature that made her a valuable resource to the team and the only woman at the time to ever be pulled from the computing pool to work on other programs. Then in 1962, President John F. Kennedy charged the country to send a man to the Moon. Johnson became part of the team, and she began to work on calculating the trajectory for America’s first space trip with Alan Shepherd’s 1961 mission, an early step toward a Moon landing. She went on to do the calculations for the first actual Moon landing in 1969.
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