Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus robotic spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) early Thursday (February 1), and the encounter was livestreamed.
Cygnus launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Tuesday (Jan. 30), kicking off a 40-hour orbital chase.
That chase came to an end at 4:55 a.m. EST (0955 GMT) on Thursday, when NASA astronaut Laurel O’Hara grabbed Cygnus using the International Space Station’s (ISS) Canadarm2 robotic arm to grab Cygnus. . She was assisted by fellow NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli. The capture operation ended 3 minutes later, when Cygnus and the ISS flew over southern Russia.
Full docking on the station’s Earth-facing Unity module was completed at 07:14 am EST (1214 GMT).
Related: Facts about Cygnus, the Northrop Grumman freighter
This Cygnus vehicle, named SS Patricia “Patty” Hilliard Robertson, after a NASA astronaut who died in a private plane crash in 2001, carried more than 8,200 pounds (3,720 kilograms) of scientific supplies and hardware for the astronauts to aboard the orbital laboratory. .
Among the experiments is a European Space Agency (ESA) project that will test 3D printing small metal parts in a microgravity environment.
“This research gives us an initial understanding of how such a printer behaves in space,” said ESA’s Rob Postema in a statement. NASA Overview of the cargo mission, which is known as NG-20 because it is the twentieth that a Cygnus has flown to the ISS for NASA.
“A 3D printer can create many shapes and we plan to print samples, first to understand how printing in space may differ from printing on Earth and second to see what types of shapes we can print with this technology,” Postema added. “In addition, this activity helps show how crew members can work safely and efficiently printing metal parts in space.”
Cygnus will remain attached to the ISS for about six months, then depart and return to a fiery death in Earth’s atmosphere. When she departs, she will transport waste from the ISS crew, such as used wipes.
An experiment aboard the freighter, called Kentucky Reentry Probe Experiment 2, will collect data during this suicide dive.
The ISS currently has two other robotic cargo spacecraft: SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Russia’s Progress vehicle. Progress and Cygnus are expendable, but Dragon is reusable and makes gentle splashdowns in the ocean under parachutes to conclude its orbital missions.