On Sun., Jan. 12, the privately launched cargo ship Cygnus arrived at the International Space Station. In spite of malfunctions, cold weather, and radioactive solar flares, the spacecraft reached the space station successfully. Packed with multitudes of belated Christmas presents and cards, the spacecraft brought joy to the six astronauts working at the space station. At 260 miles above Earth, the astronauts were able to enjoy their festive traditions and celebrate both Christmas and a new year.
With over 1,260 kilograms of gear, supplies, fresh fruit, and gifts, the spacecraft brought an array of materials, including several experiments, some of which involve ant farms and CubeSAT satellites. NASA stated, “The cargo is comprised of vital science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts, and other hardware. One newly arrived investigation will study the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics during spaceflight. Another will examine how different fuel samples burn in microgravity, which could inform future design for spacecraft materials.”
After a rough beginning and a strenuous list of delays, the Cygnus spacecraft successfully launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA. at 1:07 PM ET, using an orbital-built Antares rocket. When the spacecraft arrived, astronauts Mike Hopkins of NASA and Koichi Wakata of Japan used a robotic arm to guide the cygnus spacecraft to safety. David Thompson, the Orbital’s president and CEO, asserted, “Our first mission under the [Commercial Resupply Services] contract with NASA was flawlessly executed by our Antares and Cygnus operations team, from the picture-perfect launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to the rendezvous, capture and berthing at the space station this morning.”
Over the course of the next two years, Cygnus spacecrafts, sponsored by Orbital Sciences, will deliver a total of 40,000 pounds to the orbital lab under a $1.9 billion cargo delivery contract with NASA. The current Cygnus spacecraft will depart from the orbital lab on Feb. 18 and be disposed of on Feb.19 when it deteriorates in the Earth’s atmosphere. Not only does the spacecraft serve as a means of transporting goods, but also as a way to discard trash and unwanted materials. Overall, the Cygnus spacecrafts serve an important role in the well-being and efficiency of the space station. Cady Coleman, a NASA astronaut, claimed, “This resupply operation is the life of the space station. It is one thing to get the crew up there, but it is really important to get the supplies up there.”
(Sources: Discovery News, Huffington Post, NBC News, Space News)