S.S. Alan Pointdexter, first Cygnus spacecraft launched on atop of Antares rocket after two years break, finally reached International Space Station.
It was lucky flight for Orbital ATK – Cygnus returned for operating with its launch vehicle, Antares 230 rocket after two years of using Atlas V rocket. In spite of delay of the launch of OA-5, everything went fine and on October 18, 2016 Cygnus finally reached space. Normally, space journey of cargo spacecrafts takes a little bit shorter, but now, mission was purposely enhanced for few days to give time for Soyuz MS-02 which performed successful docking on Friday.
Cygnus reached distance of 50 m from International Space Station at 10:45 GMT, 40 minutes before planned time of grabbing by Canadarm2 (with window closing at 11:35 GMT). It reached 30 m parking point at 10:51 GMT during passing Bolivia on altitude of 405 km. At this point Cygnus spent 30 minutes waiting for grabbing by Canadarm2. In the meantime Kate Rubins (NASA) and Takuya Onishi (JAXA) were controlling flight parameters remaining inside Cupola module. At 11:06 GMT Kate Rubins reported, that crew of ISS is ready to start final approach. Cygnus started to move slowly towards ISS. At 11:11 GMT, Cygnus passed 21 m point and at 11:16 GMT reached capture point. At that moment both vehicles were passing over Spain on altitude of 402 km. At 11:17 GMT Cygnus was still on capture point, 12 m from ISS. At 11:25 GMT ground control center ordered to start procedure of grabbing Cygnus from capture point (Cygnus moved for 1 m and was in that moment 11 m from the ISS). At 11:26 GMT Canadarm2 was already 2 m from Cygnus; one minute later arm was almost touching Cygnus to finally lock in place at 11:28 GMT 402 km over Kyrgyzstan. Spacecraft with 4870 kg of cargo was ready to be attached to Unity nadir docking port later;
Final berthing of Cygnus was done after Canadarm2 moved spacecraft closer to nadir docking port. It was done automatically under supervision of robotic officer in ground control center in Houston. At 13:27 GMT robotic arm moved Cygnus 100 cm closer to berthing port and next, at 13:36 GMT, it reached 40 cm point. Spacecraft gradually was decreasing distance to Unity and was preparing for berthing procedure. Unfortunately first attempt of catching all four latches of Common Berthing Mechanism failed; it caused over 20 minutes of delay – finally Cygnus OA-5 latches were caught at 14:47 GMT and Cygnus berthed at 14:53 GMT. Astronauts after performing leak check and pressurization test will enter to Cygnus on Thursday morning.