Cygnus undocks from ISS, will remain in orbit for five more months

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Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo capsule has undocked from ISS, but will remain in orbit until December.

First, the capsule, dubbed the S.S. Roger Chaffee, will deploy a bunch of cubesats and nanosats. Then,

Northrop Grumman plans several months of long-duration spaceflight experiments using the Cygnus spacecraft after release of the CubeSats. Four miniaturized control moment gyroscopes are flying on the cargo freighter for the first time, and engineers will assess their performance in controlling the spacecraft’s pointing without consuming rocket fuel.

Ground teams also want to evaluate how the Cygnus spacecraft’s avionics function on a long-duration mission, and Northrop Grumman plans to demonstrate dual Cygnus operations for the first time after the launch of the company’s next resupply mission — NG-12 — in October.

Northrop Grumman has gotten a NASA contract to use Cygnus as the basis for the habitable module of NASA’s Lunar Gateway project, and this extended flight is a way to test the engineering for that module now during operations.

Though I continue to have many doubts about Gateway, I laud Northrop Grumman for this approach. It speeds things up and saves money.



  • Chris Lopes

    They’re taking a page out of SpaceX’s rule book. My bet is still on Musk, but it’s good to see some old dogs can learn new tricks.

  • I just wish that something along these lines could be done while tethering the capsule to another object and then spinning it up to conduct long-duration, artificial gravity experiments using animals. Then bring the animals back to the ISS to be shipped back to Earth in the next Dragon.

  • wodun

    This isn’t the first time they have done this type of secondary activity but much like what DrDoug wants, it would be cool if any of the people talking about wet workshops and converting spent stages and what not took advantage of using a Cygnus before it is disposed of.

  • Edward

    DougSpace wrote: “I just wish that something along these lines could be done while tethering the capsule to another object and then spinning it up to conduct long-duration, artificial gravity experiments …

    I agree. There has been too little exploration of tethers in orbit for us to make plans to use them. Previous flight tests have given us surprises, and we really should explore these surprises to see how to mitigate their negative effects or to take advantage of the physics involved.

    Artificial gravity is just one technology for which tethers could be useful. Disappointingly, few people talk seriously about using artificial gravity during spaceflight.

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