NASA’S newest delivery service has pulled up at the International Space Station after a week’s delay, bringing more than a half-tonne of meals and special treats to the astronauts who assisted in the high-flying feat.
With the smooth linkup, Orbital Sciences Corp. became only the second company to accomplish such a far-flung shipment.
The space station astronauts used their ship’s huge robot arm to grab the Cygnus capsule, as the two vessels zoomed 420km above the Indian Ocean.
“Everybody is just so excited,” Mission Control radioed. Ground teams described the achievement as “epic” and “superb”.
Orbital Sciences launched the Cygnus capsule on this test flight from Virginia on September 18. It was supposed to reach the space station last Sunday, but got held up by inaccurate navigation data. A software patch fixed everything. Then the Cygnus had to wait for a Russian spacecraft bringing three new astronauts in midweek.
The successful arrival means the Virginia-based company can begin making good on a $US1.9 billion ($2 billion) contract with NASA for a series of Cygnus deliveries. The next one could fly by Christmas.
Applause could be heard in Mission Control once Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano grabbed hold of Cygnus with the space station’s hulking mechanical arm.
“Good capture. That’s a long time coming,” Mission Control radioed.
“Smiles all around,” added Orbital Sciences in a tweet.
Sunday’s successful operation culminated years of effort for Orbital Sciences, which was hired by NASA along with the California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to keep the space station well stocked in this post-shuttle era.