Monday, September 30, 2013

Hatch on Cygnus Spacecraft Opens to Space Station

The Expedition 37 crew captured Cygnus with the Canadarm2 at 7 a.m. EDT Sunday. Credit: NASA

The hatch between the newly arrived Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft and the Harmony module of the International Space Station was opened at 4:10 a.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 30. Cygnus delivered about 1,300 pounds (589 kilograms) of cargo to the six crew members of Expedition 37. This included student experiments, food and clothing, which will be unloaded by the station crew over the next several days. After Cygnus was launched into orbit by Orbital’s Antares rocket on Wednesday, September 18 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, it completed an extensive series of in-orbit tests and orbit-raising maneuvers demonstrating its readiness to operate in close proximity to the ISS.

Final approach to the station began at about 3:00 a.m. (EDT) Sunday morning (Sept. 29), culminating with the station’s robotic arm grappling the spacecraft at 7:00 a.m. when it was about 10 meters away. Cygnus was then guided to its berthing port on the nadir side of the ISS’ Harmony module where its installation was completed just before 8:45 a.m.

NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins (left) and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (right) pose to the picture with the Cygnus spacecraft approaching ISS. Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins (left) and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (right) pose to the picture with the Cygnus spacecraft approaching ISS. Credit: NASA

Cygnus is scheduled to remain berthed at the ISS until the end of October, when it will depart carrying disposal cargo away from the station. A successful conclusion to this COTS demonstration mission will pave the way for Orbital to begin regularly scheduled cargo resupply missions to the ISS under the CRS contract as early as December.

Frank Culbertson, the company's Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Advanced Programs Group, said, "When Orbital first launched the revolutionary Pegasus rocket over 20 years ago, which was the world's first privately developed space launch vehicle, someone remarked 'We said we would do it and we did.' I want to echo those comments today. The COTS and CRS system has brought together the full capabilities of Orbital. From the Antares rocket development, integration, test and operations group, to the similar teams on the Cygnus program, to the many other employees in the company who contributed their expertise, they all had a hand in making today one of the most memorable in company history. Congratulations to one and all."

Cygnus crew sent a photo self portrait greeting to the ISS crew. Credit: NASA
Cygnus crew sent a photo self portrait greeting to the ISS crew. Credit: NASA

“This entire COTS demonstration mission has been executed in textbook fashion by the joint NASA and Orbital teams, from Antares’ launch 10 days ago to Cygnus’ berthing at the station this morning,” said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “A tremendous amount of hard work has gone into this five-year effort from our launch vehicle and spacecraft teams, and we are all exceptionally proud of their accomplishments. We look forward to moving ahead with regularly scheduled ISS cargo delivery missions for NASA as early as the end of the year.”

Orbital and NASA cooperatively developed the Cygnus cargo spacecraft under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program that started in 2008. For the COTS demonstration mission, Cygnus carried a relatively light load of cargo to the ISS. The ISS crew started unpacking the 700 kg of cargo and supplies today, which includes food, clothing and experimental equipment. In early October, they will begin filling the cargo module with up to 800 kg of disposal cargo prior to its departure. For future missions, Cygnus has a total cargo up-mass capacity of 2,000 kg in its standard configuration, expanding to 2,700 kg in its enhanced design for later missions. This first Cygnus will remain at the ISS for 30 days before departing for a destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean in late October.

Orbital Sciences is the second company to send a commercial cargo craft to the space station. SpaceX was the first company to send its own cargo ship with two successful commercial resupply missions and two demonstration missions under its belt.

Credit: NASAorbital.com

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