A cargo spacecraft headed for the ISS has science experiments on board.
An Orbital ATK cargo spacecraft has 7200 pounds worth of paraphernalia which will reach the ISS. The objects on board include fire-testing equipment (in space) and gecko-imitating glue-like pads.
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The launch took place late at night on Tuesday. A full moon was visible in the sky as the Atlas 5 rocket which carried the Cygnus cargo haul roared to life and sped into the sky.
There was 860,000 pounds of thrust behind the rocket. The ISS meanwhile was atop the Bahamas in space at the time of the launch.
As the various stages of the cargo ship aboard the rocket fell away, the mission got closer and closer to the ISS which was its goal. If everything goes as per plan, the cargo supply will reach the ISS on Saturday.
A robotic arm at the ISS will pull in and lock onto the cargo supply. Docking will then be possible and the Cygnus will be Orbital ATK’s fifth such supply mission.
This mission is loaded with 1713 pounds of science gear, 2511 pounds of crew supplies, 2442 pounds of station equipment and 550 pounds of computer and spacewalk odds and ends.
Among some of the other interesting things that will be on board the Cygnus spacecraft are: 29 tiny nano-satellites, a 3D printer and dozens of experiments in every thinkable field of endeavor.
According to CBS, there will be mechanical grips that will work along the same principles as a gecko’s feet pads that stick to surfaces.
The spectrographical study of meteor trails in order to distinguish their chemical ingredients will also be carried out. The soil-like materials of the moon, comets and asteroids will also be tested to find out their chemical composition.
The behavior of various materials in the microgravity of space will be studied in depth. Especially fragments from meteorites will be tested in a similar manner.
The biggest experiment will be the fire in space trial. It will go a long way to ensure the safety of crew on board the ISS were a fire to break out. The setting of a large scale fire in space will be something to see with the eyes wide open.
Cameras will record the fire and sensors will note down the temperatures that are reached due to the leaping flames. As for the gecko grippers, the velcro-like material will mimic the nature of the lizard’s feet pads. This will allow robots and astronauts in the future to climb surfaces aboard the ISS.
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