Wallops Island get first launch of 2021
12:36 PM Est. Antares with Cygnus Spacecraft lifts off for NASA
One of the lesser known launch vehicles from one of the lesser known launch sites inside the states, the Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft for the NG-15 mission has launched successfully from Wallops Island, Virginia. That's right, Virginia. On it's Northern coast NASA has their MARS (Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport) where they launch several small rockets including the Antares, Minotaur, and soon to be Electron rockets from Rocket Lab. They generally only have a handful of launches each year, but are an extremely valuable asset to the NASA compendium of launch sites.
On a literally freezing cold day, the weather conditions were showing to be 75% favorable for their right after noon launch, and things went exactly as planned. When the clock struck 12:36 PM Est the two RD-181 engines and lifted the one-hundred-thirty-three foot tall rocket towards the sky. Developed by Northrop Grumman, the Antares is the largest rocket they have to offer, and even if it is small when compared to the Atlas V or Falcon 9 it packs a mighty punch. The twin RD-181 engines using liquid oxygen and RP-1 as fuel to push out almost 500,000lbs of thrust each. Today's mission, NG-15 is their fifteen resupply mission the ISS (International Space Station) and is carrying around 8,000lbs of supplies, hardware, and scientific research materials to the astronauts currently in orbit. When the Cygnus spacecraft departs the ISS in about thirty days it will also deploy several ThinSats into orbit. The ThinSat program is a program from seventy schools across eleven states with students working together to do a bit of experimentation of their own. This is to help bring kids into the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and help further interest younger students into the importance of scientific research and exploration. After these ThinSats are deployed into orbit the Cygnus spacecraft will embark on it's least endeavor, taking out the trash. While docked to the Space Station the Cygnus capsule will be loaded with trash, and other things no longer need onboard and will burn up on reentry into Earths atmosphere along with everything inside.
Northrop Grumman has the tradition of naming their spacecraft after important figures in the aerospace industry. Today's rocket has been dubbed "Katherine Johnson" after the influential woman who helped get our astronauts safely to orbit and broke down racial and gender barriers during her time at NASA. Born in 1918, Katherine was extremely intelligent and loved to learn. Numbers came easy to her, and counting was her game. She would count her steps everywhere she went, the amount of forks and dishes in restaurants when she was out, she even started high school at age ten. At age fifteen she went to college. At the age of thirty-four Katherine learned NACA (which would turn into NASA) was hiring and decided to apply. Over the next thirty years she would become one of the greatest brains NASA had to offer helping us safely get astronauts to space and back, it was reported that when some minor computer issues were taking place before John Glenn's first trip around the Earth that he had the engineers call her to run the number herself. "If she says their good, then I'm good to go" he said. Later she was helping us land men on the Moon and when the Apollo program was finished and the Space Shuttle era began, she was there too at NASA helping us lead the race in space before retiring in 1986. Even in her later years from time to time staff from NASA would contact her for help on various projects. Katherine Johnson died on Feb. 24th, 2020 at the age of 101yrs old. Her legacy lives on today, and will for many years to come for all the advancements she's helped take place.