Northrop Grumman is launching Cygnus resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station along with a special delivery that includes pizza for the seven residents on board.
This is Northrop Grumman’s 16th cargo flight to the space station and is the fifth under its Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract with NASA.
It will also deliver nearly 8,200 pounds of science and research, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware to the International Space Station and its crew.
The Cygnus spacecraft will remain at the space station until November before it disposes of several thousand pounds of trash through its destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur will use the space station’s robotic Canadarm2 to capture Cygnus upon its arrival, while ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet monitors telemetry during rendezvous, capture, and installation on the Earth-facing port of the Unity module.
The resupply flight will support dozens of new and existing investigations.
The CRS-16 Cygnus spacecraft is named in honor of American astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who was the first Asian American to fly in space.
Previously, defence contractor Northrop Grumman Corp had won a NASA contract worth $935 million to develop living quarters for the US space agency’s planned outpost in lunar orbit.
Astronauts will live and conduct research in the Habitation And Logistics Outpost (HALO) made by Northrop for the lunar Gateway, a vital component of NASA’s Artemis moon program.
China is also planning to set up a base in the south pole of the moon, and is deploying robotic expeditions to asteroids and Jupiter around 2030.
NASA and its commercial and international partners are building Gateway to support science investigations and enable surface landings at the moon, the agency said in a statement.
Northrop Grumman will be responsible for attaching and testing the integrated quarters with a solar propulsion module being developed.
Eight countries have signed an international pact for moon exploration as a part of NASA’s Artemis program as the US space agency tries to shape standards for building long-term settlements on the lunar surface.
NASA is targeting a November 2024 launch for the integrated spacecraft on a SpaceX rocket.
(With inputs from agencies)