NASA Cargo Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station

International Space Station
The International Space Station orbiting the Earth. NASA

The International Space Station (ISS) received close to 3,300 pounds of supplies when the Cygnus spacecraft berthed with the space station on Wednesday.

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus launched atop Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket on Sunday, from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, and reached the space station at 6:36 a.m. EDT on Wednesday as part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services Mission, Orb-2. 

Cygnus was carrying 2,293 pounds of cargo, including 28 CubeSats, the TechEd Sat-4 experiment that will investigate ways to return small samples to Earth, and an upgrade to the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), the trio of spherical satellites used to test autonomous maneuvers aboard the space station.

New, odor-resistant gym clothes were also part of the Cygnus shipment. According to the Smithsonian, ISS astronauts throw out 900 pounds of clothing each year. The new clothing will reduce waste and could be available commercially if the tests are successful.

ISS Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson, assisted by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, used the space station's robotic arm, Canadarm2, to grapple Cygnus. The Canadarm2 was remotely controlled by operators at Mission Control, in Houston, and Cygnus was berthed with the space station at 8:53 a.m. EDT.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, who assisted in the grappling operation, will depressurize Cygnus and the Harmony module and perform a leak check before Swanson and Gerst open the hatch on Thursday, reports NASA. The ISS resupply mission is part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contracts awarded to Orbital and SpaceX in 2008. Orbital's $1.9 billion contract is for eight such launches, and California-based SpaceX is $1.6 billion contract is for 12 resupply missions.

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences completed its first resupply mission in January. SpaceX will launch handle the next three resupply missions to the space station and has completed three CRS missions. The next resupply mission launch is scheduled for "no earlier than September," said NASA.

Cygnus will be docked at the space station for a month before being sent back to Earth loaded with trash from the ISS.

A video of Cygnus arriving at the International Space Station, courtesy of Agence France-Presse, can be viewed below.

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