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Image Credit: Oleg Novitsky.

Cygnus resupply freighter arrives at the ISS

The NG CRS-16 Cygnus resupply freighter “S.S. Ellison Onizuka” safely arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) earlier today, after a two-day long voyage. The spacecraft, which was launched into low Earth orbit on August 10 atop an Antares 230+ rocket, was successfully caught by the two astronauts Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet, using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Capture of the freighter occurred at 10:07 UTC, while the orbital laboratory and the uncrewed spacecraft flew over the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Portugal.

Later at 13:42 UTC, ground controllers used the robotic arm to position the S.S. Ellison Onizuka in front of the Earth-facing docking port of the station’s Unity module and to subsequently bolt the craft into place. S.S. Ellison Onizuka will remain berthed to Unity for about three month, before departing the ISS and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

The mission was the fifth launch of the Antares 230+ rocket, Northrop Grumman’s in total 16th resupply mission for NASA and the fifth under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract.

Cygnus approaches the ISS. Image Credit: Oleg Novitsky.
Cygnus approaches the ISS. Image Credit: Oleg Novitsky.

The Cygnus space freighter

The Cygnus is an uncrewed freighter, supplying the International Space Station since 2013 on a regular basis.

The vehicle consists of the Northrop Grumman developed service module with the solar arrays, communications, guidance and navigation systems and the Thales Alenia Space built pressurized cargo module.

The Enhanced Cygnus, the configuration currently in active service, is 4.86 m in length, 3.07 m in diameter and has a dry mass of about 1800 kg. The vehicle provides a volume of 27 m³ and is capable of delivering over 3,000 kg of freight to the ISS.

The resupply freighters previously completed 14th succeessful missions to the ISS. All except of three crafts have been launched on Northrop Grumman’s Antares rockets, the other three on the Atlas V 401 rockets of the United Launch Alliance. That was done to continue cargo deliveries to the ISS, after a launch failure of an Antares rocket in 2014 grounded the rocket.

Cargo onboard Cygnus

The S.S. Ellison Onizuka resupply vehicle carried a total of 3,723 kg of research equipment, crew supplies and hardware to the orbital laboratory. The cargo is composed of 3,676 kg of pressurized and 48 kg of unpressurized cargo.

The 3,723 kg can be divided into 1,396 kg of crew supplies,1,064 kg of science investigations, 1,037 kg of vehicle hardware, 44 kg of computer resources and 15 kg of spacewalk equipment.

Once all cargo is unloaded from the Cygnus, the station’s crew will begin loading trash into the unpiloted spacecraft. It will later burn up in Earth’s atmosphere together with the freighter itself.


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