About the Science: What’s on Board OA-8

Orbital ATK will launch its Antares rocket at 7:37 a.m. EST on Nov. 11, 2017, from Virginia Space’s Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus spacecraft atop Antares is loaded with 7,400 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station. Apart from food and other equipment, much of this cargo is research-geared, supporting 300 new or ongoing scientific investigations occurring as part of the International Space Station’s Expedition 53-54.

Here are some highlights of research that will be delivered to the station:

Investigation tests bacterial antibiotic resistance in microgravity
Antibiotic resistance could pose a danger to astronauts, especially since microgravity has been shown to weaken human immune response. E. coli AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) will study microgravity’s effect on bacterial antibiotic resistance. The experiment will expose two strains of E. coli, one with a resistance gene, the other without, to three different doses of antibiotics, then examine the viability of each group. Results from this investigation could contribute to determining appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronaut health during long-duration human spaceflight and help us understand how antibiotic effectiveness may change as a function of stress on Earth.

EcAMSAT, undergoes thermal vacuum power management testing at NASA Ames. The test simulates the thermal vacuum and power environment of space and is an element of the spacecraft’s flight validation testing program. Credit: NASA

CubeSat used as a laser communication technology testbed
Traditional laser communication systems use transmitters that are far too large for small spacecraft. The Optical Communication Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) tests the functionality of laser-based communications using CubeSats that provide a compact version of the technology. Results from OCSD could lead to significantly enhanced communication speeds between space and Earth and a better understanding of laser communication between small satellites in low-Earth orbit.

Hybrid solar antenna seeks solution to long distance communications in space
As space exploration increases, so will the need for improved power and communication technologies. The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA), a hybrid solar power panel and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages, tests the use of this technology in CubeSat-based environmental monitoring. ISARA may provide a solution for sending and receiving information to and from faraway destinations, both on Earth and in space.

Nitrogen fixation process tested in microgravity environment
The Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Microgravity via Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Biological Nitrogen Fixation) investigation examines how low-gravity conditions affect the nitrogen fixation process of Microclover, a resilient and drought tolerant legume. The nitrogen fixation process, a process by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into a usable form for living organisms, is a crucial element of any ecosystem necessary for most types of plant growth. This investigation could provide information on the space viability of the legume’s ability to use and recycle nutrients and give researchers a better understanding of this plant’s potential uses on Earth.

Life cycle of alternative protein source studied
Mealworms are high in nutrients and one of the most common sources of alternative protein in developing countries. The Effects of Microgravity on the Life Cycle of Tenebrio Molitor (Tenebrio Molitor) investigation studies how the microgravity environment affects the mealworm life cycle. In addition to alternative protein research, this investigation will provide information about animal growth under unique conditions.

Investigation studies advances in plant and crop growth in space
The Life Cycle of Arabidopsis thaliana in Microgravity investigation studies the formation and functionality of the Arabidopsis thaliana, a mustard plant with a well-known genome that makes it ideal for research, in microgravity conditions. The results from this investigation will contribute to an understanding of plant and crop growth in space, a vital aspect to long-term spaceflight missions.

The Biological Nitrogen Fixation and Tenebrio Molitor are student investigations in the Go for Launch! – Higher Orbits program and sponsored by Space Tango and the ISS National Lab, which is managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). The Arabidopsis thaliana investigation, also a student investigation, is a part of the Magnitude.io program, sponsored by Space Tango and CASIS.

OA-8 marks Orbital ATK’s eighth cargo delivery mission to the space station, and the research on board will join many other investigations currently happening aboard the orbiting laboratory. Follow @ISS_Research for more information about the science happening on station.

OA-8 Pre-launch Press Conference Round-up

The pre-launch press conference for tomorrow’s launch has concluded. Systems tests this morning went well, and weather conditions remain green.

Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit to the International Space Station, targeted for 7:37 a.m. EST Nov. 11, 2017, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch window is open for about five minutes.

Systems tests this morning went well, with one nitrogen regulator on the ground being changed out with a replacement this afternoon. Orbital ATK’s minimum temperature constraint for Antares is 20 degrees F, so currently forecast launch temperatures (and the overall weather) are not expected to pose a problem. At launch time, temperatures are expected to be about 25 to 30 degrees.

This time lapse shows Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket rolling out of the HIF (the Horizontal Integration Facility) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Nov. 9. Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black
The mile-long journey from the HIF to the launch pad takes about two hours to complete. This time lapse covers the latter part of that journey. Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black
Once the tilt begins, the total time to go from horizontal to vertical alignment takes roughly 20 minutes. Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black

The countdown clock begins at 1:22 a.m. EST Nov. 11. Fueling begins roughly 90 minutes before launch.  Live NASA TV coverage and commentary will begin at 7 a.m., and Wallops will play live views of the launch pad on Ustream beginning at 1:15 a.m.

Sunrise occurs not long before the launch window opens, which may negatively influence the ability for viewers outside the local area to see the launch.

Launch Visibility Map for OA-8
This map shows the visibility of the upcoming launch of Orbital ATK’s CRS-8 mission from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, with numeric values indicating the time (in seconds) after liftoff the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft may be visible.

The journey from launch to orbit takes about nine minutes, with Cygnus then scheduled to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Nov. 13.

Weather Forecast ‘Excellent’ for Tomorrow’s Launch

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft aboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Aside from the unseasonable cold temperatures, weather conditions look excellent for Nov. 11’s launch attempt of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket with no real weather concerns at this time, according to the latest forecast for the range at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Weather at launch time, 7:37 a.m. EST, is forecast at 95 percent favorable.

A strong cold front will move through the Wallops Region this morning, Nov. 10, ushering in the coldest airmass of the season. Gusty northwesterly winds will bring a dry and cold airmass into the Wallops Region, with winds possibly gusting as high as 30-35 mph during the late morning and early afternoon today. A broad area of Canadian high pressure will quickly build in behind the front, centering over the Great Lakes Region and ridging south toward the Wallops Region for Saturday morning’s launch.

The unseasonably cold airmass will allow for shallow cumulus cloud development over the Chesapeake Bay this evening into Saturday morning; however, a northerly component to the wind will force the cumulus cloud cover south and west of the Wallops Region. There is only a very slight chance that the cumulus cloud cover will move over the Wallops Region Saturday morning. This weather setup will bring mostly clear and cold conditions for Saturday morning, with temperatures expected to bottom out in the mid- to upper-20s.

Sunrise at the Launch Pad

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft aboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black
Credit: NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility/Patrick Black

Antares Raised at Launch Pad-0A

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is raised into the vertical position on launch Pad-0A, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew.

Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

OA-8 Launch Blog Kicks Off; Antares Rolls to the Pad

Orbital ATK will launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit to the International Space Station, targeted for 7:37 a.m EST Nov. 11, 2017, from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Cygnus will launch on an Antares rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific research to crewmembers aboard the station. The spacecraft, named the S.S. Gene Cernan after former NASA astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan, who is the last person to have walked on the moon, will deliver scientific investigations including those that will study communication and navigation, microbiology, animal biology and plant biology. Live NASA TV coverage will begin at 7 a.m. EST on Nov. 11.

Antares Rocket
The Orbital ATK Antares rolled out to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A this morning, Nov. 9, 2017, in preparation for launch at 7:37 a.m. EST, Saturday, Nov. 11, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Antares will carry the company’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft with more than 7,000 pounds of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. The T-48 hour forecast shows a 95 percent probability of acceptable weather for a launch on Nov. 11. Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

Aside from the unseasonable cold temperatures, weather conditions look excellent (95 percent favorable) for Saturday’s launch attempt with no real concerns at this time, according to the latest forecast for the launch range.

A strong cold front will move through the Wallops Region Friday morning, ushering in the coldest airmass of the season. Gusty northwesterly winds will accompany the frontal passage on Friday, with winds possibly gusting as high as 30-35 mph. A broad area of Canadian high pressure will quickly build in behind the front, centering over the Great Lakes Region and ridging south toward the Wallops Region for Saturday morning’s launch. This will bring mostly clear and cold conditions for Saturday morning, with temperatures expected to bottom out in the mid to upper 20s.

Launch Visibility Map for OA-8
This map shows the visibility of the upcoming launch of Orbital ATK’s CRS-8 mission from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, with numeric values indicating the time (in seconds) after liftoff the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft may be visible.

Related links

OA-5 Press Conference; Launch Blog Coverage Concludes

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft on board, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: (NASA Wallops/Patrick Black)
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft on board, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: (NASA Wallops/Patrick Black)

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft lifted off at 7:45 p.m. EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A on the company’s upgraded Antares 230 rocket carrying more than 5,100 pounds of cargo.

The cargo ship will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday, Oct. 23. It will be grappled at approximately 7:05 a.m. by Expedition 49 Flight Engineers Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Kate Rubins of NASA. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module. It is scheduled depart the space station on Nov. 18.

Science investigations aboard Cygnus on their way to the space station also include commercial and academic payloads in myriad disciplines, including:

  • Saffire II, the second in a series of experiments to ignite and study a large-scale fire inside an empty Cygnus resupply vehicle after it leaves the space station and before it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere to improving understanding of fire growth in microgravity and safeguarding future space missions.
  • Cool flames, an investigation into a phenomenon where some types of fuels initially burn very hot and then appear to go out — but actually continue to burn at a much lower temperature with no visible flames.
  • Controlled Dynamics locker- equipment that can minimize fluctuations and disturbances in the microgravity environment that can occur onboard a moving spacecraft that can enable a new class of research experiments.
  • NanoRacks Black Box- a platform that can provide advanced science capabilities and is specially designed for near-launch payload turnover of autonomous payloads including use of robotics, new automated MixStix and NanoLab-style research.

NASA post-launch press release

Cygnus Solar Arrays Deployed

Both Cygnus solar arrays have deployed successfully and rotated into correct alignment. Once Cygnus moves into sunlight (the spacecraft is currently in Earth’s shadow), the arrays are expected to provide necessary power.

The deployment of Cygnus cargo spacecraft solar arrays generally occurs about 90 minutes after launch and takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Computer model of Cygnus spacecraft with solar arrays deployed. Credit: NASA TV
Computer model of Cygnus spacecraft with solar arrays deployed. Credit: NASA TV

A live post-launch press conference from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility near Chincoteague, Virginia, is scheduled to air on NASA TV at 10:15 p.m. EDT.

Cygnus is loaded with about 5,100 pounds of science investigations, food, supplies and hardware for the space station and its crew.

When Cygnus arrives to the space station, on Sunday, Oct. 23, Expedition 49 Flight Engineers Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Kate Rubins of NASA will grapple the spacecraft. They will use the space station’s robotic arm to take hold of the Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Alan Poindexter. After Cygnus’ capture, ground controllers will command the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Unity module.

The Cygnus spacecraft will spend about 5 weeks attached to the space station. Cygnus will remain at the space station until November, when the spacecraft will depart the station and initiate the second spacecraft fire safety investigation, Saffire-II, and then dispose of approximately several tons of trash during its fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Antares OA-5 Launch Imagery

On Oct. 17, 2016, Orbital ATK launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft atop an Antares rocket to the International Space Station. The spacecraft launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This is the sixth cargo mission to the International Space Station for Orbital ATK.

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft on board, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: (NASA Wallops/Patrick Black)
View of launch from helicopter. Photo Credit: (NASA Wallops/Patrick Black)
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)