Orbital Sciences' Cygnus Docks With ISS

As hoped, the Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft manufactured by Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB  ) successfully docked at the International Space Station on Sunday. Although the vessel had rendezvoused with the ISS on schedule, docking with the station was delayed until this weekend because of a software compatibility problem. The problem was resolved using a patch.

This is a test flight for Cygnus. It was launched into orbit from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Sept. 18 loaded with food, clothing, and experimental equipment for the ISS crew. On Monday, the crew will begin unpacking 1,543 pounds of supplies. Early next month, they will fill Cygnus with 1,764 pounds of disposal cargo for its return trip. According to Orbital, the craft has a total capacity of 4,409 pounds in its standard configuration, or 5,952 pounds in its "enhanced" configuration.

Orbital has high ambitions for Cygnus, which has been designed to make regular supply runs into space. In the press release announcing the most recent news, the company quoted CEO David Thompson as saying that "we look forward to moving ahead with regularly scheduled ISS cargo delivery missions for NASA as early as the end of the year."

The company developed Cygnus in a joint research and development program with the space agency. According to Orbital, the craft is capable of space missions lasting "a year or longer" in duration.


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