Minimize ISS Utilization: Cygnus NG-10

ISS Utilization: Cygnus NG-10 resupply flight to the ISS (previously known as CRS OA-10E)

Cygnus NG-10 is the 11th planned flight of the Northrop Grumman unmanned resupply Cygnus spacecraft and its 10th flight to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services Contract with NASA.

Launch: The NIGS (Northrop Grumman Innovation System) Antares 230 vehicle has launched the Cygnus NG-10, named the S.S. John Young, on its way to the International Space Station from MARS (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport) Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. Liftoff of Antares occurred on 17 November 2018, at 04:01:22 EST (09:01:22 UTC). 1)

Orbit: Near-circular orbit of the ISS, altitude of ~400 km, inclination = 51.6º, period = 93 minutes.

Note: In June 2018, Northrop Grumman acquired Orbital ATK. Since then, Orbital ATK is NGIS ( Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems), a new, fourth business sector of Northrop Grumman.


Figure 1: The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus resupply spacecraft aboard, launched from Pad-0A, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia (image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The Cygnus cargo ship is carrying about 3,356 kg of new experiments, food and other supplies for the three-person Expedition 57 crew on the International Space Station, NASA officials said. Cygnus will arrive at the station early Monday (Nov. 19), when it will be captured by astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA with a robotic arm and berthed at an open port on the orbiting lab.

This CRS-10 (Commercial Resupply Services-10) contract mission will support dozens of new and existing investigations as Expeditions 57 and 58 contribute to some 250 science and research studies. Highlights from the new experiments include a demonstration of 3D printing and recycling technology and simulating the creation of celestial bodies from stardust.

Refabricator demonstrates an integrated 3D printer and recycler for the first time aboard the space station. It recycles waste plastic materials into high-quality 3D-printer filament, which could enable sustainable fabrication, repair, and recycling on long-duration space missions. The recycling capability eliminates the need for carrying a large supply of feedstock. Current challenges of this type of 3D printing include quality control and consistency of feedstock material. - The investigation, sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, could be a key technology for in-space manufacturing.


Figure 2: The Refabricator flight hardware as it appears when installed in the EXPRESS Rack on the space station (image credit: NASA)

The Refabricator functions as a closed-loop recycler, and 3D printer, for demonstration on the ISS developed by TUI (Tethers Unlimited, Incorporated) and delivered to the NASA ISM (In-Space Manufacturing) Office. The Refabricator consists of the Recycler subsystem, which accepts plastic material and converts it into high-quality 3D printer filament. The integrated 3D printer then fabricates new parts from the recycled filament. The hardware is a single, complete unit designed to fill a double locker within an ISS EXPRESS (EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments for Space Station) Rack.

Phase 1 Primary Objectives (Minimum Success Criteria): The Refabricator demonstrates a unique process for repeatable, closed-loop recycling plastic materials for additive manufacturing in the microgravity environment of the ISS a minimum of seven times. Samples consisting of sections of filament and standardized material testing specimens are collected from each cycle in order to quantify any degradation of material that occurs during the recycling and printing process, and enhance the understanding of the recycling process in space.

Phase 2 Primary Objectives (to be accomplished after Phase 1 samples have been returned and analyzed in order to obtain statistical and variable samples): Variations in recycling conditions to further increase the understanding of the recycling process in space, including varying operating conditions and types of samples.

Space applications: The current 3D printing capability on the ISS relies on delivery of filament feedstock from cargo resupply missions, which represents a significant reoccurring cost and mission limitation. Integrated recycling/3D printing capability thus provides significant cost savings by reducing the launch mass and volume required for printer feedstock while decreasing Earth reliance. Reduction of storage and disposal of plastic waste will also enable long-duration missions by increasing utilization of available materials.

Sensory input in microgravity: Changes in sensory input in microgravity may be misinterpreted and cause a person to make errors in estimation of velocity, distance or orientation. VECTION examines this effect as well as whether people adapt to altered sensory input on long-duration missions and how that adaptation changes upon return to Earth. Using a virtual reality display, astronauts estimate the distance to an object, length of an object and orientation of their bodies in space. Tests are conducted before, during and after flight. The investigation is named for a visual illusion of self-movement, called vection, which occurs when an individual is still but sees the world moving past, according to principal investigator Laurence Harris. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) sponsors the investigation.


Figure 3: Image astronauts see in a virtual reality headset from one of the tests to estimate distance as part of the VECTION experiment (image credit: NASA)

Solidifying cement in space: The MVP-Cell 05 investigation uses a centrifuge to provide a variable gravity environment to study the complex process of cement solidification, a step toward eventually making and using concrete on extraterrestrial bodies. These tests are a follow-on to the previous studies known as MICS (Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification), which studied cement solidification in microgravity. Together, these tests will help engineers better understand the microstructure and material properties of cement, leading to design of safer, lightweight space habitats and improving cement processing techniques on Earth. This investigation is sponsored by NASA.


Figure 4: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst works on earlier research on the cement hardening process in space (image credit: NASA)

Concrete is second only to water in terms of use by humanity. Given the volume of cement and concrete used worldwide, the MICS-MVP project could have rapid scientific, commercial, and humanitarian impacts, as even a small gain in concrete technology advancement could have enormous implications on its future use and manufacturing process. 2)


Figure 5: MVP module showing the foam insert and slots for two MICS cement packets (image credit: Techshot, Inc.)

The study will use a centrifuge to simulate different gravity levels on cement samples allowing researchers to better understand conditions that would be experienced on extraterrestrial bodies, like the Moon and Mars. PI: Alexandra Radlinska, PhD., Pennsylvania State University.

Successful completion of the MICS-MVP study will provide answers to fundamental questions related to cement solidification between 0 and 1g and fully complement the initial MICS investigation. Through subsequent microstructural analysis, researchers will have a much clearer picture of crystal growth on the Moon and Mars and the necessary baseline information regarding the use of cementitious materials on extraterrestrial bodies.

From stardust to solar systems: Much of the universe was created when dust from star-based processes clumped into intermediate-sized particles and eventually became planets, moons and other objects. Many questions remain as to just how this worked, though. The EXCISS (Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station) investigation seeks answers by simulating the high-energy, low gravity conditions that were present during formation of the early solar system. Scientists plan to zap a specially formulated dust with an electrical current, then study the shape and texture of pellets formed.

Principal investigator Tamara Koch (Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany) explains that the dust is made up of particles of forsterite (Mg2SiO4), the main mineral in many meteorites and related to olivine, also known as the gemstone peridot. The particles are about the diameter of a human hair. The ISS National Lab sponsors the EXCISS investigation.

EXCISS contributes to space exploration by constraining an important physical and cosmological question. The research contributes understanding on how stars and stardust turn into planets and other objects. A better understanding of how planets form can pinpoint conditions that give rise to habitable planets (i.e., of a certain size and distance from a given star) and thus serves in the search for new, high-value exploration targets.

EXCISS benefits scientific research that seeks to understand Earth's origin and early history. EXCISS also contributes fundamental understanding of material performance and material science processes under unusual conditions of high energy and low gravity.

Operations: The experiment starts as soon as the universal serial bus (USB) connects to the NanoRacks platform. In the first hour, a tiny vibration motor shakes the sample chamber and the dust particles are free floating in the sample chamber.

After one hour, the first electrical discharge occurs. The camera starts recording just before the discharge occurs. The camera records for ten minutes and downlinks one frame per second in the first two minutes. All of the data is saved on a USB Stick. One discharge is produced every hour, 100 times.

Growing crystals to fight Parkinson's disease: The CASIS PCG-16 (Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2) investigation grows large crystals of an important protein LRRK2 (Leucine-Rich Repeat Kinase 2) in microgravity for analysis back on Earth. This protein is implicated in development of Parkinson's disease, and defining its shape and morphology may help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it. Crystals of LRRK2 grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of this research.

Better gas separation membranes: Membranes represent one of the most energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies for separating and removing carbon dioxide from waste gases, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. CEMSICA tests membranes made from particles of calcium-silicate (C-S) with pores 100 nanometers or smaller. Producing these membranes in microgravity may resolve some of the challenges of their manufacture on Earth and lead to development of lower-cost, more durable membranes that use less energy. The technology ultimately may help reduce the harmful effects of CO2 emissions on the planet.

The Cygnus cargo carries more than 400 kg of research and hardware facilities to the orbiting laboratory under the ISS National Laboratory flight allocation. There are presently 12 payloads included on this mission that are sponsored by the ISS National Lab. The research investigations that are part of the ISS National Lab flight manifest represent a diverse group of payloads intended to benefit life on Earth.

This mission also includes an array of CubeSats that will deploy from the space station through commercial service provider NanoRacks. CubeSats on this mission include a project seeking to validate a 3.5 cm2 circuit board called "ChipSat" as well as projects aimed at evaluating how microgravity impacts battery life and Earth observation imaging technology.

• MySat-1 is a 1U CubeSat, an eductional mission, developed by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology of Khalifa University, United Arab Emirates (UAE). It has two payloads, a camera module to take color pictures of Earth and a small lithium-ion coin cell battery .

• CHEFSat-2 (Cost-effective High E-Frequency Satellite-2), a 3U CubeSat of NASA to test and prepare consumer communications technology for use in space.

• KickSat-2 is a CubeSat technology demonstration mission of Stanford University and NASA/Ames designed to validate the deployment and operation of prototype Sprite "ChipSats." The Sprite is a tiny spacecraft that includes power, sensors, and communications systems on a printed circuit board measuring 3.5 by 3.5 cm, with a thickness of a few millimeters and a mass of a few grams. It is intended as a general-purpose sensor platform for electromagnetic, micro-electro-mechanical, and other chip-scale sensors with the ability to downlink data to ground stations from low Earth orbit.

Cygnus will stay parked at the space station until February, when it will be filled with trash and released to intentionally burn up in Earth's atmosphere. But before Cygnus destroys itself, it will deploy a series of small, student-built cubesats and 105 tiny "chipsats" — tiny wafer-like satellites that measure just 3.5 cm2 per side (see NanoRacks article below).



Status of mission:

• On November 19, 2018, the Cygnus NG-10 spacecraft arrived in the vicinity of the ISS. Once Cygnus was within 10 meters of the Destiny module, Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor controlled the 17.6 m long robotic Canadarm2 to grab the cargo freighter from its free-flight state. Capture was confirmed at 5:28 a.m. EST (10:28 GMT). 3)


Figure 6: The NG-10 Cygnus being moved to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module following capture (image credit: NASA)

- Tamara York radioed from Mission Control Houston. "As we gather this week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station and the spirit of exploration it represents, we celebrate today, the mission of the S.S. John Young, reaffirming that the spirit of exploration is alive and well today and will be instilled in the generations to come. Congratulations to the NG-10 team."

- The NG-10 Cygnus was named in honor of former astronaut John Young, who flew during the Gemini, Apollo and early Space Shuttle eras and was NASA's longest-serving astronaut having been part of the space agency from 1962 to 2004. He died Jan. 5, 2018, in Houston at age 87 due to complications from pneumonia.

- Serena Auñón-Chancellor concurred with the accolades, adding her thanks to the multiple people and engineers on the ground who built and launched the commercial spacecraft. "Cygnus has not only brought us very important cargo for station operations, but also critical science on multiple fronts including tissue on a chip and protein crystal growth, which could help find a cure for Parkinson's disease," Auñón-Chancellor said. "To John Young's family and especially Susy [Young's widow], the Expedition 57 is proud to have the S.S. John Young with us on orbit. John flew on multiple vehicles from Gemini to Apollo and the Space Shuttle, and now he is finally flying a long-duration mission on the International Space Station. It is our honor, and we want to thank you for sharing a part of him today."

- Using the robotic arm, Cygnus was positioned under the Earth-facing port of the Unity module (Node 1). It was firmly attached at 7:31 a.m. EST (12:31 GMT). Hatches between the spacecraft and space station are expected to be opened later today following leak checks.


Figure 7: The NG-10 Cygnus is berthed to the Unity module (image credit: NASA)



NanoRacks Provides Historic Triple-Altitude Delivery for Customers in Single Space Station Launch

November 19, 2018: Early this morning, Cygnus, the spacecraft from the tenth contracted cargo resupply mission for Northrop Grumman (previously Orbital ATK), berthed with the International Space Station carrying yet another historic NanoRacks mission. For the first time ever, NanoRacks booked customers on three different altitudes on one commercial resupply launch. 4)

The first delivery will be a research experiment to the astronauts on station. The experiment, EXCISS (Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station) is the third and final project to launch through the joint "Überflieger" program, sponsored by DLR, the German Space Agency, and DreamUp, an XO Markets company and the leading provider of educational opportunities in space. The Überflieger program sponsored flights and educational programming for three winning German university teams to fly experiments to the Space Station via NanoRacks' services. EXCISS, from Goethe University in Frankfurt, will study the formation of the solar system on the chondrule level inside a NanoLab. Chondrules are submillimeter to millimeter sized spherical particles that make up most of the mass of meteorites. The Überflieger Program was developed to coincide with German Astronaut Alexander Gerst's tenure in orbit.

After Cygnus' stay at the Space Station, the spacecraft is planned to maneuver to a higher altitude where the sixth NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployment Program mission will deploy two of three CubeSats on board into orbit, MySat-1 and the second CHEFSat satellite.

The launch of MySat-1 marks an additional historic moment for NanoRacks, being the first payload that NanoRacks has launched from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). MySat-1 is a joint program from Yahsat, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, and Northrop Grumman.

NanoRacks has provided access to space to over 30 nations around the world. "It's so exciting to now have the UAE as part of the NanoRacks international family," says Vice President of Business Development and Strategy Allen Herbert. "It's been a pleasure to work with Yahsat and Khalifa University, as this program truly demonstrates the collaboration between educational programs and advanced research. I offer a special thanks to Northrop Grumman as the sponsor for this program, and showing how the UAE provides the leading example of success for other emerging space nations around the world."

After MySat-1 and CHEFSat are deployed, NanoRacks will deliver the final customer payload in a third altitude. Northrop Grumman will direct Cygnus below the ISS to deploy KickSat-2, a collaborative CubeSat from NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University. KickSat-2 was selected for flight by NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and is being launched as the sole CubeSat in the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites-16 (ELaNa-16) mission complement, sponsored by the NASA Launch Services Program (LSP).

KickSat-2 is being deployed well below the International Space Station altitude due to the satellite sub-deploying smaller "ChipSats," a prototype representing a disruptive new space technology. These ChipSats, also known as "Sprites," are tiny spacecraft that include power, sensors, and communication systems on a printed circuit board measuring 3.5 by 3.5 centimeters, with a thickness of just a few millimeters and a mass of just a few grams. The ChipSats are expected to be in orbit for only a few days before burning up.

"We're dancing in orbit" says External Payloads Manager Henry Martin. "NanoRacks is here to build out custom missions to meet all of our customer needs, and now that means delivering in multiple altitudes on one vehicle."

The NanoRacks External Cygnus Program is the first program to have leveraged a commercial resupply vehicle for use beyond the primary cargo delivery to Space Station, demonstrating the future possibilities for using cargo vehicles for the Company's future Outpost program, and other commercial space station activities. Upon the successful completion of this mission, NanoRacks will have deployed 35 satellites from the Cygnus into multiple orbits.

"It's all in a day's work," continues Martin. "And we're especially thankful to the teams at both Northrop Grumman and NASA for being our partners in innovation within the Cygnus and International Space Station programs."



Departure of Cygnus NG-10 from the Space Station and end of mission

Three months after delivering several tons of supplies and science to the International Space Station, Northrop Grumman's Cygnus cargo craft will depart the complex at 11:10 a.m. EST Friday, Feb. 8. Live coverage will begin at 10:45 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency's website. 5)

• February 26, 2019: Northrop Grumman reports that the company successfully completed its 10th cargo supply mission to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. During the mission, the "S.S. John Young" Cygnus met the needs of multiple customers throughout this flight to the International Space Station. The spacecraft removed more than 2,500 kg of disposal cargo from the space station. 6)

- After departure, the extended mission included the deployment of three CubeSats via the NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer at two different altitudes and two CubeSats from the Slingshot CubeSat Deployer System. Slingshot, a new commercial customer for Cygnus, is a flexible platform that can fly hosted payloads and CubeSats.

- The spacecraft also operated a commercial powered payload for another new customer, UbiquitiLink, Inc. These innovative uses of Cygnus beyond the primary mission demonstrate expanded commercial opportunities enabled by partnerships built through the space station.

- "It was a flawless mission for Cygnus that further demonstrated its ability to operate as an in-orbit science platform and launch pad for deployment of commercial CubeSats on extended missions," said Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager, space systems, Northrop Grumman.

- "Now, we turn our attention to the next launch this spring where Cygnus will fly on an extended duration mission to further demonstrate its abilities as in-orbit test platform. These capabilities will showcase Cygnus as an evolving space vehicle that can build on the positive impact of the space station to grow new commercial partnerships."

- The mission officially concluded on Feb. 25 at 4:05 a.m. EST when Cygnus performed a safe, destructive reentry into the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand. The mission began Nov. 17, 2018, when Cygnus launched aboard a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

- Upon arrival at the orbiting laboratory, Cygnus delivered approximately 3,350 kg of cargo, supplies and scientific experiments to the astronauts. It remained docked for 81 days at the orbiting laboratory before departing the space station on 8 February 2019.

• February 14, 2019: Last night, NanoRacks successfully completed the Company's sixth CubeSat deployment mission from Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus (S. S. John Young) departed the International Space Station on February 8th, 2019 and performed a number of on-orbit activities, including yet another historic NanoRacks deployment. 7)

- Cygnus maneuvered to a higher-than-Space Station altitude (445 km) where the NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployment mission released two of the three CubeSats on board into orbit, MySat-1 and the CHEFSat-2 satellite. The spacecraft then lowered to an altitude of 300 km to deploy KickSat-2.

- The deployment of MySat-1 marks an additional historic moment for NanoRacks, being the first payload that NanoRacks has launched and deployed from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). MySat-1 is a joint program from Yahsat, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, and Northrop Grumman, and is the first satellite built at the Yahsat Space Lab in Masdar City, and among the first to be developed by local students.

- "We could not be more excited about all of the activity happening in the space industry in the UAE," says NanoRacks Vice President of Business Development and Strategy, Allen Herbert. "We have a number of groundbreaking programs in the works, and the MySat-1 deployment is the perfect way to kick start NanoRacks activities in the region."

- KickSat-2 was selected for flight by NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and was launched as the sole CubeSat in the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites-16 (ELaNa-16) mission complement, sponsored by the NASA Launch Services Program (LSP).

- KickSat-2 was deployed well below the International Space Station altitude due to the satellite sub-deploying smaller "ChipSats," a prototype representing a disruptive new space technology. These ChipSats, also known as "Sprites," are tiny spacecraft that include power, sensors, and communication systems on a printed circuit board measuring 3.5 x 3.5 cm, with a thickness of just a few millimeters and a mass of just a few grams. The ChipSats are expected to be in orbit for merely a few days before burning up.

- "This entire mission is a testament to the flight safety teams in-house at NanoRacks and at NASA's Johnson Space Center, and the flight operations team at Northrop Grumman," says NanoRacks External Payloads Manager, Henry Martin. "We were able to shepherd some extremely challenging payloads through the NASA system on a timeline that met the needs of our customers. This required a lot of teams working very closely together, and we're proud to have yet another successful mission that demonstrates the extended use of cargo vehicles."

- The NanoRacks External Cygnus Program is the first program to have leveraged a commercial resupply vehicle for use beyond the primary cargo delivery to Space Station, demonstrating the future possibilities for using cargo vehicles for the NanoRacks Space Outpost Program and other commercial space station activities. With successful completion of this mission, NanoRacks has deployed 35 satellites from the Cygnus into multiple orbits.

- "Thank you again to the teams at NASA and Northrop Grumman for allowing our creativity in orbit to grow with our customers' dreams," continues Martin.

- To date, NanoRacks has deployed 231 satellites into low-Earth orbit.

1) Melissa Gaskill, "NASA, Northrop Grumman Launch Space Station, National Lab Cargo," NASA Release 18-100, 17 November 2018, URL:

2) Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications NG-10 Experiments/Payloads," NASA, 1 November 2018, URL:

3) Derek Richardson, "NG-10 Cygnus brings experiments, supplies to ISS crew," Spaceflight Insider, 19 November 2018, URL:

4) "NanoRacks Provides Historic Triple-Altitude Delivery for Customers in Single Space Station Launch," NanoRacks Press Release, 19 November 2018, URL:

5) Kathryn Hambleton, Gary Jordan, "NASA Airs Departure of US Cargo Ship from International Space Station," NASA, 5 February 2019, URL:

6) "Northrop Grumman's Cygnus Spacecraft Successfully Concludes Mission to the International Space Station," Space Daily, 26 February 2019, URL:

7) "NanoRacks Completes Sixth CubeSat Deployment from Cygnus Spacecraft, Continues Historic Program," NanoRacks, 14 February 2019, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (