Orbital ATK has successfully launched the Cygnus OA-9 International Space Station (ISS) resupply vehicle aboard their Antares 230 rocket. The resupply vehicle is expected to rendezvous with the ISS on Thursday, May 24.
Two of the primary scientific experiments aboard the Cygnus OA-9 are the Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) and the Cold Atom Lab (CAL).
BEST is a next-generation DNA sequencing technology that NASA hopes to use to begin to understand the long-term effects of space travel on crew health, and the biological environment of the station. The technology will allow the astronauts aboard the ISS to sequence DNA directly from a sample with little to no preparation.
The CAL is able to slow down atoms to the point that they are almost motionless. To do this, the lab creates an environment that is 10 billion times colder than space and then uses laser and magnetic forces to slow the atoms. On the station, CAL should be able to observe the atoms for significantly longer than it would be able to on Earth. Data from the CAL experiments could be used to make a number of technological breakthroughs particularly in the field of quantum computing.
Also among the experiments and supplies making their way to the ISS aboard OA-9 is a centuries-old piece of technology, a sextant. Originally designed as a navigational aid for sailors crossing oceans, the Sextant Navigation investigation hopes to discover if it can be used in emergencies during deep space missions.
The Orbital ATK Antares 230 is 42.5 meters tall (139 ft) and 3.9 meters wide. The rocket is capable of placing 6,500 kilograms into a low Earth orbit with 3,265 kN of thrust (734,000 lbf) at launch. The rocket has been successfully launched three times including today and has suffered no failures. The Antares 230 is scheduled to be launched once more in 2018 at the beginning of November.
Featured image credit: NASA