JOHNSON SPACE CENTER — After a week’s delay, the newest cargo supply ship successfully hooked up with NASA’s International Space Station on Sunday.
Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft was gently grabbed by the space station’s robotic arm that was under the control of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano then linked up, making the company only the second commercial cargo delivery service doing business with NASA. California-based SpaceX, with its Dragon spacecraft, completed a similar delivery last year.
The successful mission was a critical part of Orbital’s $1.9 billion deal with NASA for a series of cargo missions to the space station. The next delivery could come as soon as December.
“With the successful berthing of the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo module to the ISS, we have expanded America’s capability for reliably transporting cargo to low-Earth orbit,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
“It is an historic milestone as this second commercial partner’s demonstration mission reaches the ISS, and I congratulate Orbital Sciences and the NASA team that worked alongside them to make it happen.”
The Cygnus carries more than a half ton of meals and other supplies for the space station. It is scheduled to be filled with trash then after being cut loose at the end of October, burn up in the atmosphere.
“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,” Orbital’s CEO David W. Thompson said. “We look forward to moving ahead with regularly scheduled ISS cargo delivery missions for NASA as early as the end of the year.”
Orbital Sciences launched the Cygnus capsule on this test flight from Virginia on Sept. 18. It was supposed to reach the space station Sept. 22 but got held up by inaccurate navigation data. A software patch fixed everything. Then the Cygnus had to wait for a Russian spacecraft bringing three new astronauts in on Wednesday.
Multimedia presentation of Cygnus/ISS hook up: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html#.UkiwXGR35ws