Orbital Sciences Corp. reported that its Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft successfully completed its rendezvous and approach maneuvers with the International Space Station (ISS) and was grappled and berthed with the Station by the Expedition 40 astronaut crew on July 16.
According to a media release, after Cygnus was launched into orbit by Orbital's Antares rocket on Sunday, July 13, from the Mid- Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia, it completed a series of thruster firings and other maneuvers bringing the spacecraft in close proximity to the ISS. Final approach to the Station began at about 3 a.m. (EDT) this morning, culminating with the Station's robotic arm grappling the spacecraft at 6:36 a.m. when it was about 30 feet (10 meters) from the ISS. Cygnus was then guided to its berthing port on the nadir side of the ISS' Harmony module where its installation was completed shortly before 10 a.m. this morning.
"Our third cargo mission for NASA has proceeded very smoothly, from the Antares launch from Wallops this past Sunday to this morning's rendezvous, grapple and installation at the Space Station," said David W. Thompson, Orbital's President and Chief Executive Officer. "I am very proud of our Antares and Cygnus teams for their exceptional performance on the mission to deliver vital equipment and supplies to the crew aboard the Station. I also want to pay tribute to our former Orbital colleague and NASA astronaut, the late Dr. Janice Voss, for whom this spacecraft is dedicated."
Orbital Sciences noted Cygnus is delivering approximately 3,670 pounds (1,665 kilograms) of cargo and science payloads to the Expedition 40 astronauts. The crew plans to open the Cygnus hatch and make initial ingress into its cargo module tomorrow. Cygnus will remain berthed at the ISS for approximately 30 days before departing with an estimated 2,800 pounds (1,300 kilograms) of disposable cargo. Orbital will also conduct a series of in-orbit tests designed to provide data to help enhance the vehicle's performance for future uses. It is scheduled for a safe destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean five days after departing the Station. Including a demonstration mission conducted in 2013, this is the third berthing with the ISS by a Cygnus spacecraft, which collectively have delivered approximately 8,400 pounds (3,800 kilograms) of supplies and science experiments to the orbiting laboratory.
Under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA, Orbital will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver up to 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over eight missions, including the mission currently underway, through late 2016. For these missions, NASA will manifest a variety of essential items based on ISS program needs, including food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments.
Orbital developed the Cygnus cargo spacecraft under a joint research and development program with NASA.
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