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The Cygnus commercial cargo craft is rapidly closing in on the International Space Station (ISS) for an expected berthing on Wednesday morning, July 16, following a spectacular lunchtime blastoff from the Virginia shore on Sunday, July 13, carrying over one and a half tons of supplies and science experiments for the six man crew.
During a three day orbital chase, mission controllers are executing a series of carefully choreographed thruster firings to maneuver the private Orbital Sciences Cygnus ever closer to the space station.
You can watch the final rendezvous and berthing sequence live on NASA TV on Wednesday starting at 5:15 a.m.
Watch the streaming NASA TV webcast here at – http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv
All systems “green” reported Orbital Sciences as of about 6 p.m. Tuesday evening, July 15.
Cygnus orbit was 415 x 409 km and some 4 kilometers below and 270 kilometers behind the ISS. It is closing in at 23 km/hour using its 32 thrusters.
Cygnus roared to orbit during the flawless July 13 blastoff of the Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket at 12:52 p.m. (EDT) from the beachside Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
The two stage rocket ascended very slowly after ignition with a mounting sound and deafening crescendo that reverberated across the local Virginia viewing area. It put on a spectacular sky show before disappearing into the clouds after about 40 seconds or so.
The 13 story Antares lofted the Cygnus christened “Janet Voss” in honor of the late shuttle astronaut bound for the space station and packed with a wide range of science experiments and essential supplies.
ISS Expedition 40 crew members Commander Steve Swanson of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency conducted a last minute practice session today at the robotics work station inside the domed cupola.
They used the Robotics Onboard Trainer, or ROBoT, to practice techniques for capturing Cygnus with Canadarm2, said NASA.
They are expected to capture the private cargo freighter at approximately 6:39 a.m. (EDT) using the stations 57-foot (17-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Live coverage will then pause as the crew makes final preparations.
NASA will resume the live webcast at 8:30 a.m. EDT for the berthing of Cygnus.
Mission Control in Houston will command the arm to move Cygnus into place for its installation at the Earth-facing port on the Harmony module expected to take place some 15 minutes later at around 8:45 a.m.
The Antares/Cygnus Orbital-2 (Orb-2) mission is the second of eight cargo resupply missions to the ISS under Orbital’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA.
The pressurized Cygnus cargo freighter will deliver 1,657 kg (3653 lbs) of cargo to the ISS Expedition 40 crew including over 700 pounds (300 kg) of science experiments and instruments, crew supplies, food, water, computer equipment, spacewalk tools and student research experiments.
The wide ranging science cargo and experiments includes a flock of 29 nanosatellites and deployers, student science experiments and small cubesat prototypes that may one day fly to Mars.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing ISS, OCO-2, GPM, Curiosity, Opportunity, Orion, SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital Sciences, MAVEN, MOM, Mars and more Earth & Planetary science and human spaceflight news.