WASHINGTON, (PNA/Itar-Tass) — A new U.S. space freighter Cygnus, which has been orbiting already for ten days, is to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday. The docking will begin at 04:30 EDT (12:30 Moscow time) on Sunday, NASA reported. All partners in the ISS program approved the docking operation.
When the cargo freighter approaches the ISS, crew members of the 37th ISS expedition U.S. astronaut Karen Nyberg and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano will take it with a robotic arm and will dock to the U.S. module Harmony, the U.S. space agency added. Cygnus is to bring about 600 kilograms of cargoes, including water, foodstuffs, clothes and materials for scientific experiments, to the ISS crew.
Cygnus went on its first flight to the ISS on September 18 by the rocket Antares, which was launched from the NASA spaceport on Wallops Island, State Virginia, off U.S. Atlantic coast. The docking with the ISS should have taken place on Sunday, September 22, but it was delayed over a malfunction in the software of the cargo freighter.
Specialists from Orbital Sciences Corp., which had built Cygnus, eliminated the malfunction quickly, but it was decided to delay the docking with the ISS for some time over the expected arrival of the crew members of the next long ISS expedition. On Thursday, September 26, the spaceship Soyuz brought Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky as well as NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins. They are staying together with Nyberg, Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, which will return to the Earth in November.
The Cygnus development took about five years, Orbital Sciences Vice-President and former U.S. astronaut Frank Culbertson said. A seven-ton cargo freighter is made of two modules – a service module that is carrying a power unit and a cargo module that is created on the equipment that was previously used in U.S. shuttles.
NASA has already concluded with Orbital Sciences a contract worth of US$ 1.9 billion under which the cargo freighter will make eight flights to the ISS before the end of 2016. For this period of time it is to bring approximately ten tonnes of cargoes to the ISS.
A two-stage rocket Antares is used to orbit Cygnus. The pilot launch of the rocket was made successfully in April from the spaceport on Wallops Island.
The rocket is 40 meters high and has a diameter of about four meters. Modified engines NK-33 of Russian production, which are designed by the Samara-based N.D. Kuznetsov scientific-technical centre are used in the first stage of the rocket. The U.S. company Aerojet has adapted the engines for mounting on Antares.
NASA has already used the private freighter Dragon, which the California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (Space X) had created for cargo delivery to the ISS. Contrary to Cygnus, Dragon is a multi-entry spacecraft.
Dragon has already made two dockings with the ISS and is to fly to the station ten times more under the contract worth of$ 1.6 billion. Meanwhile, U.S. aerospace giants – The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin Corporation are developing a new spaceship and a heavy rocket. NASA contemplates to use them for far space missions, including those to asteroids and probably to the Mars.