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SpaceX Sends Northrop Grumman Cargo Ship to Space Station

Credits: NASA Blogs

SpaceX initiated its third launch in less than three days on Tuesday, propelling a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida, carrying over four tons of scientific equipment, supplies, and perishables such as ice cream, fresh fruit, and cheese, on a two-day journey to the International Space Station.

The Falcon 9, utilizing a first-stage booster embarking on its 10th flight, roared to life at 12:07 p.m. EST, ascending from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Upon propelling the rocket out of the Earth’s lower atmosphere, the first stage detached executed a controlled descent and autonomously landed at the Space Force station while the second stage continued its ascent into orbit. This marked SpaceX’s 44th successful landing in Florida and its 269th booster recovery overall.

SpaceX Sends Northrop Grumman Cargo Ship to Space Station

Northrop Grumman’s 20th Cargo Resupply Mission (Credits: Northrop Grumman Newsroom)

Fourteen minutes post-liftoff, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo ship was released to maneuver independently. If all proceeds according to plan, it will rendezvous with the space station early Thursday, awaiting the lab’s robotic arm to capture and berth it.

This launch followed two SpaceX missions within five hours on Sunday and Monday, one from the Kennedy Space Center and the other from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. These two Falcon 9 launches deployed 45 Starlink internet satellites, increasing the total launched to date to 5,806.

Tuesday’s mission, SpaceX’s 10th this year, marked the first time it transported a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship for NASA.

NASA relies on SpaceX Falcon 9s and Northrop Grumman’s Antares rockets to transport supplies to the space station. However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Northrop Grumman is replacing its Antares 200-series rockets, equipped with a Ukrainian-built first stage powered by Russian engines, with an all-American version.

Northrop Grumman’s 20th space station resupply mission, Tuesday’s flight, was the inaugural of three aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 as the company progresses with the development of the new Antares 300-series rocket.

Onboard the latest Cygnus are over 8,200 pounds of cargo, including crew supplies, science equipment, space station hardware, and computer gear.

Meghan Everett, the ISS deputy program scientist, highlighted the diverse scientific endeavors supported by the mission, spanning human research, technology demonstrations, fundamental science, and Earth-based observations.

Technology demonstrations include a 3D metal printer that explores structural differences between printing objects in space and on Earth, crucial for prolonged space missions.

Among the crew supplies are fresh food and frozen treats, including apples, citrus, cheese, hazelnut spread, coffee, hummus, and ice cream, providing a morale boost for the long-duration crew members.

Dina Contella, ISS operations and integration manager at the Johnson Space Center, teased some surprises in the food kits, enhancing the crew’s culinary experience aboard the station.

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