Farewell to Antares 230: The Final Mission to the ISS and Future Endeavors

Farewell to Antares 230: The Final Mission to the ISS and Future Endeavors

An Antares rocket took off for its final flight to the International Space Station (ISS) on an eventful night, marking the end of an era for this particular vehicle. The 19th commercial resupply service mission from Northrop Grumman (NG-19) launched at 8:31 p.m. EDT (0031 GMT on Aug. 2) from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Packed with cargo, provisions, and science experiments, the mission is destined for the ISS. However, this launch is significant, as it is the last for the current Antares 230 series rocket, slated to be replaced by a newer version next year.


Approximately eight minutes into the flight, a Cygnus spacecraft detached from Antares' second stage, carrying over 8,200 pounds (3,700 kilograms) of cargo for the ISS crew. Scheduled to arrive on Friday, August 4, at 5:54 a.m. (0954 GMT), you can watch the docking live via NASA TV from 4:30 a.m. ET (0930 GMT).


In keeping with their tradition of naming Cygnus vehicles after influential figures in spaceflight, the NG-19 Cygnus was christened the SS Laurel Clark, in honor of the fallen space shuttle Columbia astronaut. After reaching orbit, the SS Laurel Clark will take around 2.5 days to catch up to the ISS.


The launch represents the final mission for the current Antares 230 series due to supply line disruptions caused by reliance on Ukrainian-built first stages and Russian rocket engines. In response, Northrop Grumman has entered an agreement with U.S. company Firefly Aerospace to manufacture engines and a new first stage for the upgraded Antares 330 series rocket. Initially expected to launch in the latter half of next year, the updated Antares is now scheduled to take flight in the summer of 2025, with its debut mission, NG-23.


Aboard the SS Laurel Clark, more than 20 research investigations, equipment, and foodstuffs are being transported to replenish supplies for the ISS's current and upcoming crews. The research includes material science and technology demonstrations, Earth-monitoring sensor tests, space antenna upgrades, and human health-focused biological investigations aimed at studying therapies for various medical conditions.


Among the noteworthy research on board is the Saffire-VI experiment from NASA's Glenn Research Center, a series of demonstrations to understand fire behavior in space. Another addition is the Multi Needle Langmuir Probe (m-NLP) from the European Space Agency (ESA), designed to scan plasma densities in Earth's ionosphere that affect GPS and other satellite-based navigation systems.


Also included in the payload is the Exploration Potable Water Dispenser (PWD), a new drinking fountain for the ISS that offers remote operation and advanced water sanitization and microbial growth reduction methods.


Additionally, cargo from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) includes digital artwork from over 13,000 students across 74 schools and the STORIES of Space Project, which delivers more than 300 written stories stored on SD-cards to engage space enthusiasts with space exploration.


With the final mission of the Antares 230 series underway, Northrop Grumman has enlisted SpaceX to fly the next few Cygnus cargo spacecraft using the Falcon 9 rocket. Grumman's twentieth resupply mission, NG-20, is slated for this November.


In conclusion, the farewell to the Antares 230 marks the end of an era while paving the way for exciting future endeavors in space exploration. The new Antares 330 series holds promise for a continued journey of discoveries and advancements in the years to come. As we bid adieu to one chapter, we eagerly await the unfolding of the next.

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