Cygnus spacecraft finally docks with ISS

Graphic displaying the current layout of the ISS, as well as the positions of all currently docked spacecraft(Credit: NASA)

As of 9:26 am EST, the Orbital ATK Cygnus supply vessel has finally succeeded in docking with the International Space Station following a series of weather-related delays. The Cygnus launched to the ISS last week boasted a 53 percent increase in cargo capacity over previous versions, allowing the spacecraft to replenish the station with roughly 7,000 lb (3,175 kg) worth of consumables, scientific experiments and station hardware.

Following two aborted attempts, the unmanned Cygnus spacecraft was finally hefted into orbit atop an Atlas V launch vehicle from the agency's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida at 4:44 p.m. EST on December 6. Previous efforts to launch the rocket had been thwarted by thick cloud and high winds.

Included in the ships manifest were consumables which are expected to keep the crew fed and watered well into May next year, and numerous pieces of equipment that will help the crew of expedition 45 – as well as the upcoming expedition 46 – to undertake an impressive 250 science and research investigations during their time in low-Earth orbit.

Astronauts also took receipt of a number of Microsoft HoloLens devices for use in its NASA Sidekick experiment, as well as a SAFER jet pack, designed to keep crew members, well... safe, during extra vehicular activities.

Cygnus-4 made ISS history upon docking, becoming the first cargo spacecraft to be birthed to the Earth-facing docking port of the station's Unity module. Once the cargo is unloaded the spacecraft will remain docked to the station for a period of one month.

During this time the ersatz module will essentially serve as a cosmic trash can for the station residents, who will transfer around 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) of refuse to Cygnus prior to undocking the spacecraft, which will then de-orbit, burning up in Earth's atmosphere in the process.

Source: NASA

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