Orbital Science Corporation’s unmanned Cygnus cargo ship has successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft made its rendezvous with the station at 8:44 AM EDT on Sunday, a week behind schedule and 11 days after launching from NASA’s Wallops Island facility. The delay was due to a software malfunction and the need to make way for the docking of a manned Soyuz spacecraft on September 25.
This demonstration mission marks the first time a Cygnus spacecraft has visited the ISS and the beginning of regular cargo runs by it and SpaceX’s Dragon freighter. Carrying 1,300 lb (589 km) of non-essential cargo, Cygnus had been trailing the station at a distance of about 1,500 mi (2,400 km).
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Once a software patch was installed and the Soyuz had docked, Cygnus was given the go to approach on Sunday morning. It carried out a series of system and safety checks before approaching the station, where it stood off while European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg used one of the station’s Canadarm robotic arms to capture it and guide it to an empty docking port on the Harmony module, where it was bolted in place. Cygnus will remain attached to the ISS until October 22 while it is being unloaded. It will then undock and be sent to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific.
The NASA video below shows highlights of the docking maneuver.