Cygnus Cargo spacecraft successfully docks with ISS

Orbital ATK has successfully launched a cargo spacecraft that docked with the ISS on October 23, 2016. The cargo ship was hauling much needed supplies and science experiments for the crew of six aboard the ISS to work on. Cygnus was captured by the robotic arm of the space station at 7:28am EDT to be attached later in the morning to the berthing port on the space station.

In all the Cygnus cargo ship hauled up over 5,200 pounds of supplies and scientific gear to the ISS. This cargo ship carried the name S.S. Alan Poindexter to honor the NASA astronaut of the same name who died in 2012. The robotic arm was required to grab the Cygnus spacecraft because this particular spacecraft isn't designed for automated docking. The robotic arm was controlled by Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi with American astronaut Kate Rubins as backup.

After grabbing the Cygnus, the astronauts don't handle the actually docking procedure, the robotic arm is later controlled by mission control in Houston to actually dock the cargo craft with the space station. The cargo ship launched from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on October 17. Cygnus wasn't the only spacecraft that launched to the ISS, a Soyuz spacecraft launched Wednesday and reached the ISS on Friday, October 21.

The Cygnus was pushed into space by the Antares rocket also built by orbital ATK. This was the first launch of this rocket in about two years. The last launch resulted in an explosion a few seconds after liftoff. The flight that docked this month was the first launch for the Antares 230 with two new engines in the first stage. The Russian launch was carrying new crewmembers for the ISS and mission managers decided to allow the Soyuz with the new crew to dock first.