Cygnus Delivers Science, Station Supplies
The Expedition 40 crew welcomed more than a ton and a half of science, supplies and spacewalking equipment to the International Space Station Wednesday with the arrival of Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo spacecraft.
With Cygnus securely in the grasp of the Canadarm2 robotic arm, the robotics officer at Mission Control in Houston remotely operated the arm to guide the cargo craft to its berthing port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module. Once Cygnus was in position, Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman monitored the Common Berthing Mechanism operations for first and second stage capture of the cargo ship, assuring that the vehicle was securely attached to the station with a hard mate. Second stage capture was completed at 8:53 a.m. EDT.
Cygnus was grappled at 6:36 a.m. as it flew within about 32 feet of the complex by Commander Steve Swanson — with assistance from Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst – as he controlled the 57-foot Canadarm2 from a robotics workstation inside the station’s cupola. Wiseman joined his crewmates in the seven-windowed cupola to assist with the capture and help coordinate the activities. At the time of capture, the orbital laboratory was flying around 260 statute miles over northern Libya.
After Wiseman removes the Centerline Berthing Camera System that provided the teams with a view of berthing operations through the hatch window, he will pressurize the vestibule between Harmony and the newly arrived cargo craft and conduct a leak check. Once that is complete, Swanson and Gerst will open the hatch to the vestibule and outfit the area for the opening of Cygnus’ hatch around 6 a.m. Thursday.
This is Orbital’s second cargo delivery flight to the station through a $1.9 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract. Orbital will fly at least eight cargo missions to the space station through 2016.
The Orbital-2 mission delivered almost 3,300 pounds of supplies to the station to expand the research capability of the Expedition 40 crew. Among the research investigations aboard Cygnus are a flock of Earth-imaging nanosatellites, hardware to enable a trio of free-flying robots to perform 3-D mapping inside the station and a host of student experiments.
After the Orbital-2 mission at the station is completed in August, the cargo ship, which will be filled with trash, will be robotically detached from Harmony and released for a destructive re-entry in Earth’s atmosphere.
Cygnus launched atop an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket at 12:52 p.m. Sunday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.