Cygnus Rendezvous With Space Station
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology John P. Holdren.
UPDATE: September 29, 2013 9:10AM EDT: Crew members of Expedition 37 attached Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft onto the Harmony node of the International Space Station ahead of schedule this morning at 8:44 a.m. EDT. The spacecraft is delivering about 1,300 pounds of cargo to the orbiting laboratory, including student experiments, food and clothing. Future Cygnus flights will ensure a robust national capability to deliver critical science research to orbit, significantly increasing NASA’s ability to conduct new science investigations to the only laboratory in microgravity. The crew will open the hatch to the spacecraft tomorrow to begin unloading cargo.
UPDATE: September 29, 2013 7:10AM EDT: International Space Station Expedition 37 crew members successfully captured the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm at 7:00 a.m. EDT.
Following its capture, the spacecraft is being maneuvered by Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Karen Nyberg of NASA for installation onto the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony module.
September 29, 2013 3:00AM EDT
According to NASA officials, docking procedures are scheduled to begin at 7:15 a.m. Eastern time, when the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm will attempt to grab the 16.7-foot-long spacecraft. Two hours later, Cygnus will begin berthing to the Earth-facing port of Harmony node, and second stage capture should be complete around 11:20 a.m.
NASA television coverage of the event got underway at 4:30 a.m. this morning. The US space agency has also scheduled a joint press conference at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and NASA Headquarters in Washington for 1 p.m. this afternoon to discuss the rendezvous.
Cygnus will be delivering approximately 1,300 pounds of cargo to the ISS as part of its resupply mission, including food, clothing and student experiments. It will become just the second commercial spacecraft to ever dock with the orbiting laboratory, following only SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which did so in October 2012.
Cygnus departed from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on September 18. Propelled by an Antares rocket, the spacecraft traveled at speeds of 17,500mph in Earth’s orbit. It had initially been scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS on September 22. However, that initial docking had to be postponed due to a data format mismatch.
Orbital was able to quickly develop and test a software patch, but the spacecraft’s arrival had to be delayed until after the September 25 arrival of three Expedition 37/38 crew members. Those individuals – Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins (NASA) and Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy (Roscosmos) arrived at the space station at 10:45 p.m. Eastern time.
“Orbital built and is testing Cygnus under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program,” the US space agency explained in a statement. “The successful completion of the COTS demonstration mission will pave the way for Orbital to conduct eight planned cargo resupply flights to the space station through NASA’s $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with the company.”
“Today marks a milestone in our new era of exploration as we expand the capability for making cargo launches to the International Space Station from American shores,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said following its September 18 launch. “Orbital’s extraordinary efforts are helping us fulfill the promise of American innovation to maintain our nation’s leadership in space.”