Cygnus Docks With International Space Station After Delay

The unmanned Cygnus cargo ship docked with the International Space Station on Sunday morning, one week after it was scheduled to arrive.

Cygnus, owned by Orbital Sciences, is the second commercial spacecraft to fly to and dock with the orbiting science lab. Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) owns the Dragon capsule, which has already made a few trips to the ISS.

Discovery News reports that Orbital and SpaceX have contracts with NASA to deliver experiments and supplies to the space station after the agency retired its space shuttles in 2011.

SpaceX is taking a hiatus to test a new version of its Falcon 9 rocket. The launch is expected between noon and 2 pm EDT on Sunday from a complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Cygnus capsule blasted into space on September 18 aboard an Antares rocket. The flight is meant to show the craft’s abilities both in flying and docking with the station. It will stay at the International Space Station for about a month before it returns to Earth.

The BBC notes that Cygnus’ docking with the International Space Station was delayed for one week because of a software glitch. The issues kept the craft from establishing the right navigation links and communications with the ISS. So, Cygnus stayed about 2,000 km from the ISS while engineers fixed the problem.

The arrival of new crew members in the middle of the week delayed a second attempt even further. The craft made its approach to the ISS Sunday morning and Astronauts Italian Luca Parmitano and American Karen Nyberg used the Canadarm2 to grapple Cygnus and pull it into the ISS’s Harmony module.

Astronauts will wait a day before they enter the cargo ship to remove its supplies. The Cygnus capsule will remain for about a month, then be sent into a destructive dive toward the atmosphere.

[Image by NASA/Bill Ingals via Wikimedia Commons]