After a couple of delays, Orbital Science Corp.'s Cygnus spacecraft will finally rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday, Sept. 29, beginning at 4:30 a.m. EDT, 1:30 a.m. PDT. Cygnus was originally scheduled for a Sept. 22 date with the ISS but a technical issue pushed back the rendezvous until Sunday.
In addition to the software glitch that prevented Cygnus from docking with the ISS, the arrival of the Expedition 36 crew on Sept. 25 to the space station also delayed the unmanned spacecraft’s launch. According to NASA, Cygnus will be carrying 1,300 pounds, 589 kilograms, of cargo, from student experiments, clothes and food, to the ISS.
The Cygnus spacecraft will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and will be met by NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, from the European Space Agency. Nyberg and Parmitano will grab Cygnus with the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm and attach it to the ISS’ Harmony node, reports NASA. Orbital successfully launched Cygnus on Sept. 18, sending the spacecraft 170 miles into Earth's orbit.
Orbital has a lot riding on the success of Cygnus' ISS rendezvous as it will lead to future cargo missions. Cygnus was developed under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, COTS, program. COTS program was launched by NASA to stimulate the commercial space transport systems, sending crew and cargo, to the ISS. In addition to Orbital, NASA's other commercial partner participating in the COTS program is SpaceX. With a successful docking mission, Orbital will conduct eight more resupply missions under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA. The contract will run through 2016 and Orbital will send 44,093 pounds, 20,000 kilograms, of net cargo to the ISS in that period.
Orbital's Cygnus launch live stream will start at 4:30 a.m. EDT, 1:30 a.m. PDT, on Sept. 29 and can be viewed below.