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Watch: Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Cargo Ship Arrives at International Space Station

Oct 24, 2016 05:36 AM EDT
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Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo spacecraft has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, Oct. 23, loaded with supplies and science experiments for the crew.

The cargo ship was grappled by the station's robotic arm and was berthed to the Unity module of the station at 10:53 am EDT. It has delivered more than 5,100 lbs. of supplies and science experiments to support the crew's research activities.

The experiments include the Saffire II, which will study fuels the burn very hot at first, and then appear to go out, but actually continue to burn at a much lower temperature without any visible flames, NASA said.

Cygnus was built by aerospace company Orbital ATK and was not designed to dock with the ISS on its own. Astronauts and ground crew had used the station's robotic arm to grapple the spacecraft and dock it with the station. Expedition 49 astronauts Kate Rubins of NASA and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency used the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm 2 to grab the spacecraft on Sunday morning. Flight controllers at NASA's Mission Control center in Houston, Texas controlled the arm remotely to install Cygnus on the station's Unity module.

The spacecraft will remain in the space station until Nov. 18, when the spacecraft will return to Earth to dispose several tons of trash from the space station and conduct the second experiment, where a second fire will be ignited in Cygnus to help scientists understand how fire grows in microgravity and design safety measures for future space missions.

Cygnus launched atop Orbital ATK's Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Monday evening, Oct. 17. It was the first time an Antares rocket had flown in almost two years, with new RD-181 first stage engines. In October 2014, an earlier version of the rocket had exploded shortly after liftoff, damaging the Cygnus cargo ship it was carrying.

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