Stock Price: 132.29 +0.00 3/23/2018 4:02 PM ET

Stock Price: 132.29 +0.00 3/23/2018 4:02 PM ET
Enhanced Cygnus Spacecraft Features New Technology and Greater Capability


In early December, Orbital ATK will launch an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) for the OA-4 cargo resupply mission. With a greater payload capacity, new UltraFlexTM solar arrays, new fuel tanks and the flexibility to launch on both the Antares and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets, Cygnus is evolving to meet the needs of NASA and the astronauts aboard the ISS.

Cygnus’ Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) has been extended and allows for more cargo increasing the spacecraft’s interior volume capacity by 25 percent. Orbital ATK’s Space Components Division (SCD) in Goleta, California has re-engineered some of the most vital components of Cygnus – the solar arrays and fuel tanks. Cygnus’ new circular UltraFlex solar arrays are lighter and more compact than traditional arrays, yet maintain the previous arrays’ power generation capabilities. Within the spacecraft’s new fuel tanks, a unique diaphragm technology allows for easier control of propellant supplied to the spacecraft’s propulsion system.

The increase in volume, coupled with weight savings from upgraded components, resulted in an increase in cargo that can be delivered to the ISS. The enhanced Cygnus has a maximum payload of better than 3,500 kilograms (7,700 pounds), which is 1,200 kilograms (2,630 pounds) more than its predecessor. These upgrades, in addition to Cygnus’ flexibility to launch on both the Antares and Atlas V, create an increasingly viable and flexible platform.

In December, the spacecraft will launch atop an Atlas V rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying essential supplies to the crew aboard the ISS. By next spring, upgrades to Orbital ATK’s Antares will be complete, and the rocket will once-again launch Cygnus from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.

Technicians conduct a deployment test of one of the two Orbital ATK UltraFlex solar arrays on the OA-4 Cygnus Service Module (SM). Photo credit: Orbital ATK

Technicians make final preparations to the Cygnus SM in Orbital ATK’s Dulles, Virginia Satellite Manufacturing Facility prior to shipment to the launch site at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: Orbital ATK

The initial cargo is loaded into Cygnus’ Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) at the Kennedy Space Center before it is mated to the SM. The PCM is provided by Thales Alenia Space and is designed and built in Italy. Photo credit: NASA

The Cygnus PCM and SM are mated together at the launch site to create the complete Cygnus spacecraft. After this, Cygnus will be fueled and its remaining cargo loaded into the PCM prior to launch. Photo credit: NASA