article image

Cygnus freighter arrives at space station

Irene Klotz, Spaceflight Correspondent
Jul 16, 2014, 22:20 UTC

Sen—An Orbital Sciences Corp Cygnus spacecraft ended a 2.5-day journey to the International Space Station Wednesday to deliver more than 3,600 pounds (1,660 kg) of food, supplies and science experiments.

Station commander Steven Swanson and flight engineer Alexander Gerst kept close watch on the Cygnus as it flew within reach of the station’s 58-foot (18-meter) long robotic arm.

Working from a control station inside the station’s Cupola module, Swanson extended the Canadian-built crane to latch on to a grappling pin on the bottom of the capsule at 6:36 a.m. EDT (1036 GMT) as the station flew 260 miles (418 km) above northern Libya.

The capsule, named SS Janice Voss after a five-time shuttle astronaut who died in 2012 from breast cancer, was launched on Sunday aboard an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket flying from Virginia.

“We now have a seventh crewmember. Janice Voss is now part of Expedition 40,” Swanson radioed to flight controllers at NASA Mission Control Center in Houston.

“It’s great to see Cygnus onboard and Janice as well,” replied NASA robotics officer Melanie Miller. “Thanks a lot.”

The capsule is loaded with more than 3,600 pounds (1,660 kg) of food, clothing, supplies, spacewalk equipment and science experiments. The cargo also includes a new batch of miniature Earth-imaging satellites owned by Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based company founded and run by a group of former NASA engineers, scientists and student interns.

Planet Labs’ 28 new Dove satellites will be released into orbit by a CubeSat launcher in the station’s Kibo module over the next month or so. Planet Labs flew an earlier batch of 28 spacecraft aboard Orbital Sciences first Cygnus freigher in January.

NASA hired Orbital Sciences, along with privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, to fly supplies to the station following the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.

So far, SpaceX has flown three of 12 missions under its $1.6 billion NASA cargo delivery contract; Orbital Sciences is making the second of eight planned deliveries under a separate $1.9 billion contract.

The SS Janice Voss is due to remain berthed at the station until Aug. 15. Before it is detached, it will be filled with trash and other items no longer needed on the space station and flown back into Earth’s atmosphere for incineration.