Successful Link Between Cygnus and International Space Station - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Successful Link Between Cygnus and International Space Station


WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned cargo ship, the Cygnus, successfully docked at the International Space Station on Sunday.

The Cgynus launched from Wallops Island on Sept. 18. It was supposed to reach the space station last Sunday, four days after its launch, but there was a discrepancy in navigation data between the capsule and the space station that led to a frustrating standoff. Ground controllers made a software repair that eventually enabled the successful dock.

The Cygnus- named after swan constellation- delivered a half-ton of meals and treats for the station astronauts. Applause could be heard in Mission Control as Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano grabbed hold of Cygnus with the space station's hulking mechanical arm.

With this smooth linkup, Orbital Sciences of Virginia became only the second company to accomplish such a far-flung shipment. The California-based SpaceX company took the lead last year.

Since the arrival was successful, Orbital Sciences can start making good on a $1.9 billion contract with NASA for more Cygnus deliveries. The next one could fly as early as Christmas.

NASA officials and White House representatives declared it a historic day.

"It was just a very, very impressive job ... I just couldn't be happier and more proud," said the NASA manager overseeing this commercial effort, Alan Lindenmoyer.

Now that the space station has two U.S. private companies capable of delivering goods, he noted, "it's certainly a relief and something we're ready to celebrate."

The linkup happened 260 miles above the Indian Ocean. It'll remain linked until early Monday, which is when the six station astronauts will enter the capsule and begin unloading.

Sunday's operation was a testament to many years of work for Orbital Sciences, which is a private company hired by NASA to keep the space station well stocked.

The other company delivering goods to the Space Station, SpaceX, has been launching its supply ships, called Dragon, from Cape Canaveral, Fla. for more than a year. It's also working on a possible manned capsule that would ferry U.S. astronauts to the space station, rather than having them hitch rides on Russian rockets. The cargo contract alone, with NASA, is worth $1.6 billion.

From Southern California on Sunday, as Orbital Sciences celebrated its own victory, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a Canadian science satellite. The demo flight appeared to go well.

Unlike the SpaceX Dragon that can return items to Earth, the Cygnus is designed to burn up upon descent. Once unloaded of its 1,300 pounds worth of food, clothes and other items, it will be filled with trash and self-destruct on Oct. 22.

Both the station crew and Mission Control paid tribute to the late astronaut for whom the Cygnus is dedicated: G. David Low.

Low flew three times on space shuttles, then went to work for Orbital Sciences to help in this new commercial space effort. He died of cancer in 2008 at age 52. His family attended the Cygnus launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

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