Launched on Sept. 18 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the Orbital Sciences-made vehicle delivered its new Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the station on Sept. 29. On Sept. 30, the station crew opened the hatch between the station and Cygnus.
The unmanned Cygnus will drop off experiments and supplies before leaving the station on Oct. 22. It will be destroyed when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere.
The demonstration mission paves the way for Orbital to conduct a series of cargo resupply flights through 2016 under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA.
NASA hopes the Antares-Cygnus effort, along with a similar initiative by SpaceX, will help reduce U.S. reliance on foreign spacecraft to support the space station. In 2012, SpaceX’s Dragon reusable spacecraft delivered cargo to the station for the first time.
"Space history was again made … with the berthing of Orbital Sciences' cargo-carrying Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station,” said John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology. “Now two American companies have proven they are capable of delivering cargo to the space station.”
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