Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, topped by the Cygnus spacecraft — S.S. Gene Cernan — launched from Pad-0A today, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Credit: NASA

This supply ship is headed for the International Space Station, set to deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Link-up with the ISS is scheduled for Tuesday.

Laser communications

For example, onboard the cargo ship: two innovative 1.5-unit CubeSats designed and built by The Aerospace Corporation.

The Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) project uses a pair of CubeSats to explore data transmission to the ground via ultra-small lasers, and is also tasked to maneuver the diminutive spacecraft to up-close proximity.
Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

Both CubeSats were developed for NASA Ames Research Center’s Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) mission. This effort focuses on two significant capabilities of value for future small spacecraft missions: high-speed optical transmission of data and proximity operations between two small satellites–both capabilities not previously demonstrated in spacecraft of this size.

A pioneering propulsion system on OCSD uses water as a propellant, which is exhausted as steam.

Novel antenna array

Another innovative mission on the Orbital ATK CRS-8 (OA-8) supply ship is the Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) spacecraft.

JPL’s ISARA will showcase a unique ability to increase downlink data rates for CubeSats thanks to a novel antenna array design that utilizes printed circuit board patches.

The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) mission. It will showcase a pioneering ability to increase downlink data rates for CubeSats thanks to a novel antenna array design that utilizes printed circuit board patches.
Credit: NASA/JPL

NanoRacks deployer

This supply mission to the ISS also totes a full NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer (ENRCSD), a virtual reality camera, and educational research.

The NanoRacks ENRCSD is installed on the exterior of the Cygnus service module with the capability to deploy satellites after Cygnus’ completion of its primary ISS resupply mission.

On this ENRCSD mission, NanoRacks has 14 satellites ready to be deployed with customers including the NRO Office of Space Launch, Asgardia, Spire, Tyvak, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Included in this External Cygnus manifest are also The Aerospace Corporation’s AeroCube B/C satellites, water-based propulsion CubeSats.

One strange rock

This mission is enabling a unique virtual reality opportunity with National Geographic’s VUZE camera.

Integrated and launched via NanoRacks, VUZE will allow for the recording of the new National Geographic series “One Strange Rock,” in which the astronaut crew will record a series of virtual reality pieces for incorporation into a larger documentary about natural history and the solar system.

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