SS Katherine Johnson Spacecraft Is on Its Way to the ISS

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket with Cygnus supplies on board will launch from Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Saturday, February 20, 2021. Northrop Grumman’s 15th contracted cargo supply mission for NASA to the International Space Station will provide the orbital laboratory and its crew with approximately 8,000 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware. NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility / Patrick Black

A cargo spaceship was launched by Northrop Grumman Cygnus yesterday to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Named SS Katherine Johnson in honor of the pioneering NASA mathematician for Black History Month SS Katherine Johnson is now on its way to the station, carrying 8,000 pounds of supplies and scientific equipment.

The launch took place on Saturday, February 20 at 12:36 p.m. (CET) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. About three hours after takeoff, the vehicle deployed its solar panels, which collect electricity from the sun to propel its journey to the space station. This trip will last until early Monday morning when a member of the ISS crew – JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi – detects the vehicle and installs it on the station’s Unity module.

This is Northrop Grumman’s 15th replenishment mission, which includes a series of scientific experiments as well as supplies for the crew.

The company names its Cygnus spaceship after key figures in human space travel and has chosen to recognize Katherine Johnson’s contributions at the launch. Their work as a “computer”, where complex calculations were done by hand, was crucial to the success of the early Apollo missions. She worked at NASA for over 30 years and died last year at the age of 101.

Johnson’s continued influence was recognized by NASA flight director Adi Boulos. “I am humble to be the International Space Station flight director for the Northrup Grumman CRS-15 mission,” Boulos said in a statement. “This spaceship has the honor of being called the SS Katherine Johnson. As a black woman, Katherine Johnson has overcome racial and gender barriers to pursue her dreams and become a central part of this country’s young space program. Fifty-nine years ago today, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth after personally asking Katherine Johnson to check the trajectory calculations of his Mercury missions. Katherine Johnson has been an asset to our space program, and I am honored to be served on a mission that continues her legacy. “

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