On April 17, an Antares rocket, carrying supplies and 40 mice, took off towards the International Space Station with the Cygnus spacecraft. 

The launch was from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, at 4:46 EDT. The launch marked the 2 day journey of the spacecraft towards the ISS. This would be the 11th mission by Northorp Grumman for NASA, and also the longest one.

A beautiful day, a fantastic launch, It's great to have another cargo vehicle on its way to the International Space Station.

Joel Montalbano, NASA's deputy space station program manager

The spacecraft is on course to deliver 7,600 lbs (3,447 kilograms), the heaviest load till date for the Cygnus spacecraft.

This is the first cargo supply mission from the United States to the ISS, following the recent test of the Crew Dragon Demo-1.  It is also the first successful U.S. launch, following the recent launch of the second Falcon Heavy.

Image Source: NASA

Around half of the cargo that Cygnus is bringing is dedicated to science for us on the International Space Station.

Pete Hasbrook, NASA's manager for space station science

The Mice Experiments

The Cygnus spacecraft is carrying 40 mice towards the International Space Station.

These mice are a vital part of the mission, as they are a part of a study to test the effectiveness of an anti-tetanus vaccine.

The mice will be split into 2 groups of 20, and one group will be administered the vaccine. The response of the mice to the vaccine will be tested on earth.

Other Scientific Experiments

  • Testing air leak finding robot
  • Testing inventory maintenance robot
  • Building advanced ZBLAN fibre-optics cables in space
  • Removing carbon-dioxide from the ISS atmosphere

Satellite Cargo

The exterior of the Cygnus contains small satellites called CubeSats, that will be put into orbit once the spacecraft undocks from the ISS later this summer.

The upper stage of the Antares rocket also carried 60 small satellites called ThinSats. These were built by elementary and high-school students.

One of the CubeSats (SASSI2) was built by university students.

The ThinSats are small STEM satellites built by students in 70 schools located in nine states. After the thinsats are deployed, students will collect and analyze data transmitted from their satellite for approximately five days before it deorbits and burns up in the atmosphere.

Kurt Eberly, Antares vice president for Northrop Grumman
These three boxes make up the mouse habitat on Cygnus NG-11 for an anti-tetanus vaccine experiment on the International Space Station. They are (Left to Right): Rodent Habitat, Rodent Transporter, Animal Access Unit. Caption Source: Space.com. Image Source: NASA.

Watch the launch here


Cover Image Source: NASASpaceFlight

Sources: Space.com, NASA