A week after its original approach date, Orbital Sciences’ commercial cargo craft Cygnus has arrived at the International Space Station. The Expedition 37 crew captured Cygnus with the Canadarm2 at 7 a.m. EDT Sunday. Cygnus launched Sept. 18 aboard an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Orbital Sciences uploaded a software fix for a navigation data mismatch that occurred during its approach Sept. 22. NASA managers opted to wait until after Wednesday’s Soyuz launch and docking to restart capture and berthing activities.
Cygnus was operating safely behind the space station by about 1,491 miles while mission managers and ground controllers tested the software patch and planned Sunday’s second approach attempt. Cygnus began a series of thruster burns towards the orbital laboratory Thursday night after station managers gave their final approval.
As Cygnus met its demonstration objectives and moved closer to the space station, Expedition 37 Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg watched and worked in tandem with Mission Control. Parmitano was in the cupola at the Canadarm2 controls monitoring its approach. Nyberg was his back up at the secondary robotics workstation inside the Destiny laboratory.
When Cygnus met its final demonstration objective of pointing a tracking laser at a reflector on the Kibo laboratory it moved to its capture point about 10 meters from the station. Cygnus turned off its thrusters, operated in free drift, and Parmitano maneuvered the Canadarm2 to grapple and capture Cygnus.
Parmitano operated the Canadarm2 to move Cygnus and attached it to the Harmony node at 8:44 a.m. The hatches to Cygnus will be opened Monday afternoon after leak checks and power connections.
Orbital Sciences is the second company to send a commercial cargo craft to the space station. SpaceX was the first company to send its own cargo ship with two successful commercial resupply missions and two demonstration missions under its belt.