US commercial spacecraft docks with space station

Washington, Jan 13: A US space company operated commercial spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS) Sunday morning on its first official cargo resupply mission to the orbiting laboratory.

The unmanned Cygnus spacecraft made its rendezvous with the station at 6.08 a.m. EDT (1108 GMT) as the two flew 260 statute miles (about 418 km) over the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar, Xinhua reported.

“Capture of Cygnus by the station crew!” Orbital Sciences said in its launch blog.

“The crew will use the station’s robotic arm to manoeuver the spacecraft and install it to the station’s Harmony node,” it said.

Cygnus will remain at the station until mid-February when it will be unberthed from the station for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean, NASA said.

That departure will clear the way for the arrival of California-based SpaceX’s third commercial cargo mission aboard the Dragon spacecraft.

According to NASA, these two back-to-back resupply missions by US companies “will mark a milestone in NASA’s ability to deliver critical new science payloads to the only laboratory in space”.

Cygnus spacecraft was launched atop the Antares rocket, also built by Orbital Sciences, Thursday from the US space agency NASA’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.

The mission began the company’s first contracted cargo delivery flight to the station, following a successful demonstration mission last September.

Under a $1.9-billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, Orbital Sciences will fly at least eight cargo missions to the station through 2016.

For its first official commercial resupply mission, the spacecraft is carrying 2,780 pounds (1,260 kg) of supplies to the station, including food, spare part and science experiments.

IANS