The International Space Station captured an Orbital ATK-built spacecraft at 6:19 a.m. Eastern time to start a 50-day berthing period for astronauts on the ISS to carry out scientific studies with cargo and other research supplies delivered by the company’s Cyngus ship.
NASA said Wednesday astronaut Kjell Lindgren used the space station’s robotic arm to take in Cyngus and the spacecraft was bolted into place approximately three hours later for the ISS crew to collect the more than 7,000 pounds of supplies for studies on microorganisms and experiments to study the behavior of gases and liquids, thermo-physical properties of molten steel and flame-resistant textiles.
The crew also received a microsatellite NASA says will be the first-ever to be deployed from the space station.
Cyngus launched into space Sunday night via a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and the spacecraft’s arrival to the space station marks Orbital ATK’s fourth berthing with the ISS and third under the company’s portion of NASA‘s Commercial Resupply Services contract originally awarded to predecessor Orbital Sciences and Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2008.
The space agency extended the CRS contracts for Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK SpaceX in March for an additional two years past the original end date to 2018.
Orbital ATK is contracted for 10 cargo respupply missions to the ISS through 2018 and the company’s next launch under CRS is scheduled for March, the company said.
“This mission featured the debut of our enhanced Cygnus, which allowed us to transport approximately 7,700 pounds, or 3,500 kilograms, of essential supplies, equipment and scientific experiments to the astronauts on board the ISS,“ said Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK“™s space systems segment.
“That represents a more than 50 percent increase in capacity over the previous Cygnus model.
Orbital ATK has three total CRS missions scheduled for 2016 with the Cyngus launch in March and two others with the company’s Antares rocket lined up for the second and fourth quarters.