The Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, left, and Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft, right, are seen attached to the International Space Station in June. Credit: NASA
A commercial Northrop Grumman Cygnus supply ship berthed at the International Space Station fired its main engine for 50 seconds Tuesday in a test of the spacecraft’s ability to reboost, and possibly eventually deorbit, the massive research outpost.
Ground controllers at Northrop Grumman’s mission operations center in Dulles, Virginia, uplinked commands for the Cygnus spacecraft, attached to the space station’s Unity module, to ignite its main engine at 4:25 p.m. EDT (2025 GMT) Tuesday.
Before the brief reboost burn, engineers at NASA’s mission control center in Houston commanded the space station to re-orient itself to prepare for the Cygnus engine firing, pointing the cargo craft’s thruster along the station’s direction of travel in orbit more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth.
The Cygnus spacecraft’s BT-4 main engine, supplied by IHI Aerospace of Japan, fired for 50 seconds Tuesday. The engine produces around 100 pounds of thrust, and the maneuver raised the orbit of the roughly 450-ton space station by 295 feet (90 meters).
Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman Innovation ...