The International Space Station has officially received its first cargo in two years. Astronauts at the ISS used a robotic arm to grab and hang on to the Cygnus spacecraft that contained 1,500 pounds of supplies and research equipment.
Kate Rubins from NASA and Takuya Onishi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency caught the Cygnus spacecraft at 7:28 a.m. of Sunday, using the Canadaarm2. At the time, the craft was around 250 miles above Kyrgyzstan. By 10:53 a.m., the cargo spacecraft had been safely attached underneath the space station’s Unity module.
Cygnus, built by Orbital ATK, will stay at the ISS until mid-November. It will then be loaded with garbage and separated from the module, sent off to burn upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, UPI reports. On its final trip, a large fire will be set off inside Cygnus, with images and measurements sent back to Earth.
Cygnus, the name of which means swan in Greek, is also a constellation. The craft was launched Monday from the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallups Island, Virginia. It carried equipment that would help study fire in space and the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, as well as assist in collecting health-related data and finding a new way to measure neutrons.
Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group, said in a release, “While all of our missions are important to us, the OA-5 mission is distinct and special to the entire Orbital ATK team.” The OA-5 refers to the Cygnus. “It marked the return to our home base of operations at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, where we launched our Cygnus spacecraft atop our upgraded Antares vehicle to deliver critical cargo to the International Space Station.”
There’s quite a lot going on at the space station. On Friday, two Russians and one Americans docked at the space station to complete the ISS’s normal six-person crew of astronauts.