Cygnus automatic cargo spacecraft, SS “Rick Husband”, reached International Space Station after lasting 72 hours space journey.
It was first mission realized under CRS contract by Orbital ATK in 2016. OA-6 mission was previously scheduled for February 2016, but due the spotted cargo contamination, mission was delayed to March 22, 2016. After successful launch by United Launch Alliance with utilization of Atlas V rocket, Cygnus reached orbit and started its journey to ISS. Today, shortly after 10 o’clock GMT, it reached its destination and started to get close to International Space Station. Punctually at 10:39 Cygnus reached capture point – distance from ISS which makes possible grabbing spacecraft by Canadarm2 robotic arm. After two minutes of waiting for confirmation from ground control center, Tim Kopra (NASA) started to operate Canadarm2. Jeff Williams (NASA) was responsible for continuous monitoring of Cygnus parameters and Tim Peake (ESA) was support and backup for Tim Kopra. At that time, ISS was flying over Southern Ocean on altitude of over 420 km. At 10:46 GMT Canadarm2 started to move towards Cygnus and after one minute, at 10:47, it reached distance of 3 meters from spacecraft. Cygnus turned off thrusters at 10:48 – Canadarm2 reached distance of 2 m from spacecraft at that moment. Cygnus hold stable position and at 10:49 Canadarm2 was closing to distance under 1 m to Cygnus. Punctually at 10:51:28 GMT Cygnus was grabbed by Canadarm2 operated by Tim Kopra. International Space Station was flying over Southern Ocean on altitude of 421.35 km with latitude -50.56° and longitude 50.42°. Speed of the ISS was at 7.66 m/s (27576 km/h).
Next step is moving Cygnus to Earth-facing port of the Unity module and attaching it with Common Berthing Mechanism, This action will be performed by Mechanical System Officer in ground control system in Houston. The entire payload will be transferred manually by crew members with one exception – Saffire experiment module will remain on Cygnus. Saffire is experiment closed in box with 60 cm x 90 cm x 120 cm. Saffire objective is research on fire in space. Cygnus spacecraft, after undocking from Unity, will fly to safe distance from ISS and start experiment. Inside Saffire box small fire will be started. It will be recorded by cameras during 2.5 hours while special instruments will measure intensity, speed and temperature of fire in microgravity environment. After experiment Cygnus will perform reentry and will burn in atmosphere.