Orb-2 Science Briefing Highlights

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The small Planet Labs satellites included in Cygnus' cargo are similar to those pictured here, part of a constellation launched into orbit earlier this year from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The small Planet Labs satellites included in Cygnus’ cargo are similar to those pictured here, part of a constellation launched into orbit earlier this year from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Artist concept of TechEdSAT-4. Credit: NASA

Artist concept of TechEdSAT-4. Credit: NASA

Photo of Smart SPHERES, a prototype free-flying space robot headed to the International Space Station aboard Orb-2's Cygnus. Credit: NASA

Photo of Smart SPHERES, a prototype free-flying space robot headed to the International Space Station aboard Orb-2’s Cygnus. Credit: NASA

Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft with cargo for the International Space Station is scheduled to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Sunday, July 13 at 12:52 p.m. EDT.

About half of the Cygnus’ 3,300-pound payload is food for the station’s crew, with a combination of science experiments, spare parts and experiment hardware making up the other half. A pre-launch briefing about the mission (known as Orb-2) was held at 4 p.m. on July 11 to discuss these science and technology components.

Among the research investigations are a flock of small satellites (known as CubeSats) that are designed to take images of Earth, developed by Planet Labs of San Francisco; and a satellite-related investigation called TechEdSat-4 built by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. TechEdSat-4 aims to develop technology that will eventually enable small samples to be returned to Earth from the space station. In addition, a host of student experiments are being flown in association with the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, an initiative of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and NanoRacks.

Another small satellite headed to the space station is Smart SPHERES, a prototype free-flying space robot. NASA has been testing the Smart SPHERES on the space station since 2011. During this summer, astronauts will upgrade these existing space robots to use Google’s “Project Tango” smartphone, which features a custom 3-D sensor and multiple cameras. NASA will then use the Smart SPHERES to test free-flying 3-D mapping and navigation inside the space station. NASA is developing the Smart SPHERES to perform work on the space station that requires mobile sensing, such as environmental surveys to monitor levels of radiation, lighting and air quality. They also will be used to monitor inventory and conduct experiments.

Orbital 2 Cargo By-The-Numbers

Total weight of cargo: 3293 pounds / 1493.8 kilograms

  • Crew supplies: 1684 pounds / 764.2 kilograms
    • Crew care packages
    • Crew provisions
    • Food
  • Hardware: 783 pounds / 355.1 kilograms
    • Crew Health Care System hardware
    • Environment Control and Life Support equipment
    • Electrical Power System hardware
    • Extravehicular Robotics equipment
    • Flight Crew Equipment
    • PL Facility
    • Structural & Mechanical equipment
    • Internal Thermal Control System hardware
  • Science and research: 721 pounds / 327 kilograms
    • CubeSats and deployers
    • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Dynamic Surf Hardware
    • Human Research Program resupply
  • Computer supplies: 18 pounds / 8.1 kilograms
    • Command and Data Handling
    • Photo and TV equipment
  • Spacewalk tools: 87 pounds / 39.4 kilograms

› NASA’s Orbital website
› Launch viewing maps from Orbital Sciences Corp.
› Latest Student Science Heads For Space
› Orbital Mission Delivers Delights to Station
› NASA Launches Smartphone Upgrade and CubeSat

One thought on “Orb-2 Science Briefing Highlights

  1. Sandra L.

    What a well-written and illustrated account! I only wish this were taking place
    during the “regular” school term so that more students and teachers would access it. This would be a wonderful addition to our science curriculum!

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