The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft, launched on November 12, has just reached the International Space Station and was captured by Canadarm2 robotic arm. Astronaut Paolo Nespoli, assisted by his colleague Randy Bresnik, will soon begin the slow maneuver to move the Cygnus until it docks with the Station’s Harmony node after about two hours.
For the Cygnus cargo spacecraft named S.S. Gene Cernan’s the launch was laborious due to a couple of unforeseen events. Originally it was scheduled to be launched on Saturday November 11 but a plane was detected in the forbidden area about a minute before lift off and the procedure was aborted. The next day some boats were sighted in the forbidden area but fortunately they were sent away in time to proceed with the launch at the last second possible.
The Orb-8 mission is almost accomplished because the Cygnus spacecraft can’t land and when it comes back into Earth’s atmosphere it will disintegrate. For this reason, it will be used to get rid of component failed or that can’t be used any longer on the International Space Station: all of that will be loaded on the Cygnus and will disintegrate along with it.
Cygnus is scheduled to leave the International Space Station on December 3. In these cases, an exact date for the cargo spacecraft departure is never given because it also depends on other tasks that can have higher priority.
Tomorrow the International Space Station crew should open the Cygnus spacecraft’s hatch and at that point the cargo will be slowly brought to the Station. Subsequently, all that has now become garbage will be loaded on the Cygnus and the spacecraft will be ready for departure. These operations will continue slowly for several days.
This is the 8th of 10 official missions established by the Orbital ATK’s contract with NASA to resupply the International Space Station, the first of the extension announced in March 2015. The next mission might start in March 2018.