Cygnus (spacecraft)

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Cygnus
The Enhanced variant of Cygnus is seen approaching the ISS.
The Enhanced variant of Cygnus is seen approaching the ISS.
ManufacturerNorthrop Grumman
Country of originUnited States
OperatorNASA
ApplicationsISS resupply
Specifications
Spacecraft typeUncrewed cargo vehicle
Design life1 week to 2 years [1]
Launch mass6,600 kg
Dry mass3,400 kg
Payload capacity2,000 kg
Volume18.9 m3
Power3.5 kW
Dimensions
Length5.1 m
Diameter3.07 m
Production
StatusIn service
Built10
On order11
Launched10
Operational1
Retired8
Lost1
Maiden launch18 September 2013
Last launch15 February 2020

The Cygnus spacecraft is an expendable American cargo spacecraft developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation and now manufactured and launched by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems as part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program. It is launched by Northrop Grumman's Antares rocket or ULA's Atlas V and is designed to transport supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) following the retirement of the American Space Shuttle. Since August 2000, ISS resupply missions have been regularly flown by the Russian Progress spacecraft, as well as by the European Automated Transfer Vehicle, and the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle. With the Cygnus spacecraft and the SpaceX Dragon, NASA seeks to increase its partnerships with domestic commercial aviation and aeronautics industry.[2]

Cygnus is the Latinized Greek word for swan and a northern constellation.

Development[edit]

The NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (third from left) in front of the Cygnus spacecraft in May 2012.

With Rocketplane Kistler unable to meet funding obligations for its K-1 launch vehicle under the terms of the COTS agreement, NASA decided on 18 October 2007 to terminate its contract with Rocketplane Kistler and re-award its contract after a competition.[3] On 19 February 2008, the NASA announced that it had chosen Orbital Sciences as the new winner.[4] On 23 December 2008, NASA awarded Orbital Sciences a $1.9 billion contract under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program. Under this contract, Orbital Sciences will deliver up to 20 tons of cargo to the ISS through 2016 in eight Cygnus spacecraft flights.[2]

By April 2010, Orbital had displayed a full-scale model of the Cygnus cargo delivery spacecraft at the National Space Symposium (NSS) in Colorado Springs, CO.[5]

Launched on an Antares (renamed from Taurus II) medium-class launch vehicle or Atlas V, the first Cygnus flight was originally planned to occur in December 2010.[6]·[7] The Cygnus demonstration mission was successfully launched on 18 September 2013.[8] On 12 January 2014, the first scheduled Cygnus resupply mission arrived at the space station; the capsule carried Christmas presents and fresh fruit for the astronauts. Its arrival was delayed, first by the need to repair the station, and then by frigid weather at the launch site and solar flares that forced postponements.[8]·[9]

With the December 2015 launch of Orb CRS-4 on Atlas V, the Enhanced version made its debut. While it was planned from the beginning to fly on the fifth mission, the Orb CRS-3 failure and subsequent move to Atlas V meant a delay. On the other hand, the lessons learned on packing and the extra capabilities of the Atlas allowed payload to be increased to 3,500 kg (7,700 lb).[10]

Design[edit]

A scale drawing of the Standard (left) and Enhanced (right) Cygnus.

The Cygnus spacecraft consists of two basic components: the Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) and the Service Module (SM). The PCM is manufactured by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, (Italy). The initial PCMs have an empty mass of 1,500 kg [11] and a volume of 18 m3·.[12] The service module is built by Orbital ATK and is based on their GEOStar and LEOStar spacecraft buses as well as components from the development of the Dawn spacecraft. It has a gross mass of 1,800 kg with propulsion provided by thrusters using the hypergolic propellants hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide and is capable of producing up to 4 kW of electrical power via two gallium arsenide solar arrays.[12] On 12 November 2009, Dutch Space announced it will provide the solar arrays for the initial Cygnus spacecraft.[13]

The Standard Cygnus being unberthed from the Harmony module.

The fourth and all subsequent Cygnus spacecraft are planned to be of the "Enhanced" variant, as the standard variant has been retired.[14] These will use a stretched 1,800-kilogram (empty weight) PCM which increases the interior volume to 27 m3 and the service module will use Orbital ATK Ultraflex solar arrays which will provide the same amount of power as the previous solar arrays but at a lower mass.[12]·[14] A new upper stage built by Orbital ATK, the Castor 30XL, will be used in conjunction with the enhanced Cygnus; because of the more powerful upper stage and the lighter solar arrays, the payload that Cygnus can deliver to the ISS will be increased by 700 kg.[15]

During nominal CRS missions, Cygnus maneuvers close to the International Space Station, where the Canadarm2 robotic arm grapples the spacecraft and berths it to a Common Berthing Mechanism on the Harmony module in a similar fashion to the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle and the other American CRS vehicle, the SpaceX Dragon.[12] For typical missions, Cygnus is planned to remain berthed for about 30 days.[16]·[17] Cygnus does not provide return capability, but can be loaded with obsolete equipment and trash for destructive reentry similar to the Russian Progress vehicles.[18]

A formerly planned variant of Cygnus would have replaced the PCM with the Unpressurized Cargo Module (UCM), based on NASA's ExPRESS Logistics Carrier, and would have been used to transport unpressurized cargo, such as ISS Orbital Replacement Units.[6]·[19] Another proposed variant would have replaced the PCM with the Return Cargo Module (RCM), which would have allowed Cygnus to return cargo to Earth.[6]·

CRS-2 Versions[edit]

On 10 April 2014, NASA announced to potential bidders new requirements (CRS-2) for the delivery and disposal of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to and from the International Space Station. To meet NASA's requirements for the CRS-2 contract, Orbital ATK put together a bid that included three different variants of its Cygnus spacecraft to meet the various requirements outlined in the CRS-2 contract. Orbital was awarded a CRS-2 logistics contract on 14 January 2016.[20]

The first version would be the Enhanced Cygnus upgraded to carry 10% to 15% more pressurized cargo than the current CRS-1 Cygnus version.

The second version would be a larger Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) that would use an Atlas V rocket. This would deliver the largest pressurized cargo volume to ISS.

The third version would be an Unpressurized Cargo Module (UCM), based on NASA's ExPRESS Logistics Carrier. The unpressurized Cygnus would look different than its pressurized counterparts, with a cargo carrier taking the place of the PCM. The unpressurized Cygnus would berth to the Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM), just like the current cargo vehicles to US Operating Segment (USOS).

In essence, what Orbital ATK proposed for their CRS-2 contract was an Antares-based Cygnus design and an Atlas-based Cygnus to take advantage of both vehicle lifting capabilities – placing the smaller Cygnus on Antares and the larger Cygnus with more cargo on an Atlas V.

Lunar Gateway module variant[edit]

In August 2019, NASA decided to sole source its design for the Minimal Habitation Module of the Gateway to Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, which offered a minimalist design based directly on the Enhanced Cygnus as well as a larger 7-meter (22.9 feet) by 4.4-meter (14.4 feet) design also based on the Cygnus. The module would be launched and placed in lunar orbit in early 2024, and would host the crew of Artemis 3 and the commercial lunar lander by the end of the year. The weight constraints would likely require launch aboard an Atlas V, Delta IV Heavy, or Vulcan rocket.[21]

Missions[edit]

List includes only currently manifested missions. Eight missions are currently planned to be launched from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Launch Pad 0A on Antares, while two are planned to be launched on Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral SLC-41.[22]

The PCM of each mission thus far has been named after a deceased NASA person (mostly astronauts).

Cygnus spacecraft missions
# Mission Payload Variant Launch date Rocket Payload mass Outcome Ref.
0 Cygnus Mass Simulator Cygnus Payload Simulator N.A. 21 April 2013, 21:00:00 UTC Antares 110 Success [23]·[24]
First Antares launch, demonstrated Antares's performance and capability to place its payload on a precise target orbit.[25]
1 Orb-D1
G. David Low
Cygnus 1
Orbital Sciences COTS Demo Flight
Standard 18 September 2013, 14:58:00 UTC Antares 110 1,299 lb (589 kg) Success [26]·[27]·[23]·[28]
First Cygnus mission, first mission to rendezvous with ISS, first mission to berth with ISS, second launch of Antares. The rendezvous between the new Cygnus cargo freighter and the International Space Station was delayed due to a computer data link problem,[29] but the issue was resolved and berthing followed shortly thereafter.[30]
2 Orb-1
C. Gordon Fullerton
Orbital-1 Standard 9 January 2014, 18:07:05 UTC Antares 120 2,780 lb (1,260 kg) Success [27]·[23]·[31]·[28]
First Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) mission for Cygnus, first Antares launch using the Castor 30B upperstage.
3 Orb-2
Janice E. Voss
Orbital Sciences CRS Flight 2 Standard 13 July 2014, 16:52:14 UTC Antares 120 3,293 lb (1,494 kg) Success [23]·[28]
Second Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) mission for Cygnus.
4 Orb-3
Deke Slayton
Orbital Sciences CRS Flight 3 Standard 28 October 2014, 22:22:38 UTC Antares 130 4,883 lb (2,215 kg) Failure [32]·[28]
First Antares launch to use Castor 30XL upperstage, delayed due to boat in launch safe zone. Second takeoff attempt suffered a catastrophic anomaly resulting in an explosion shortly after launch. Contents of the cargo included food and care packages for the crew, parts, experiments, and the Arkyd-3 Flight Test (Non-optical) Satellite from Planetary Resources.
5 OA-4
Deke Slayton II
Orbital ATK CRS Flight 4 Enhanced 6 December 2015, 21:44:57 UTC Atlas V 401 7,746 lb (3,514 kg) Success [33]·[34]·[28]
First Enhanced Cygnus mission; Orbital Sciences contracted with United Launch Alliance to launch this Cygnus on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
6 OA-6
Rick Husband
Orbital ATK CRS Flight 6 Enhanced 23 March 2016, 03:05:52 UTC Atlas V 401 7,758 lb (3,519 kg) Success [33]·[35]·[34]·[36]·[28]
Second mission to fly on an Atlas V. Orbital Sciences has an option with United Launch Alliance to conduct a third Cygnus launch on an Atlas V rocket if necessary.
7 OA-5
Alan Poindexter
Orbital ATK CRS Flight 5 Enhanced 17 October 2016, 23:45:36 UTC Antares 230 5,163 lb (2,342 kg) Success [37]·[38]·[39]
The Antares 230 rocket carrying Cygnus lifted off at 23:45:36 UTC, 17 October 2016. Successful rendezvous was achieved on 23 October 2016 at 14:53 UTC.
8 OA-7
John Glenn
Orbital ATK CRS Flight 7 Enhanced 18 April 2017, 15:11:26 UTC [40] Atlas V 401 7,443 lb (3,376 kg) Success [41]·[35]·[34]·[36]·[28]
9 OA-8E
Gene Cernan
Orbital ATK CRS Flight 8 Enhanced 12 November 2017, 12:19:51 UTC [42] Antares 230 7,359 lb (3,338 kg) Success [41]·[35]·[34]·[36]
11 November 2017, launch was scrubbed with less than 2 minutes remaining in the count when an aircraft entered the hazard zone. The intruder was a general aviation aircraft approximately 6 miles (∼10 km) offshore and flying at an altitude of about 500 feet (152 m); it was not responding to calls.[43]
10 OA-9E
J.R. Thompson
Orbital ATK CRS Flight 9 Enhanced 21 May 2018, 08:44:06 UTC [44] Antares 230 7,385 lb (3,350 kg) Success [45]
11 NG-10
John Young
Northrop Grumman CRS Flight 10 Enhanced 17 November 2018, 09:01:31 UTC [46] Antares 230 7,386 lb (3,350 kg) Success [22]·[46]
12 NG-11
Roger Chaffee
Northrop Grumman CRS Flight 11 Enhanced 17 April 2019, 20:46:07 UTC [47] Antares 230 7,575 lb (3,436 kg) Success [48]
13 NG-12
Alan Bean
Northrop Grumman CRS Flight 12 Enhanced 2 November 2019, 13:59:47 UTC Antares 230+ 8,221 lb (3,729 kg) Success
14 NG-13
Robert Lawrence Jr.
Northrop Grumman CRS Flight 13 Enhanced 15 February 2020, 20:21:01 UTC [49][50] Antares 230+ 8,009 lb (3,633 kg) Success
9 February 2020, launch was scrubbed with less than three minutes remaining in the count due to off-nominal readings from a ground support sensor.[51]
15 NG-14
TBA
Northrop Grumman CRS Flight 14 Enhanced 30 September 2020, 02:26 UTC (planned) Antares 230+ TBA TBA
16 NG-15
TBA
Northrop Grumman CRS Flight 15 Enhanced April 2021 Antares 230+ TBA TBA

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]