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Two days after suffering from technical glitch, Orbital Sciences Corporation on Tuesday successfully launched a demonstration mission to the International Space Station.
Cygnus cargo spacecraft is traveling at 17,500 miles per hour as it orbits Earth and heads towards its rendezvous with the space station on September 22.
Cygnus will bring approximately 1,300 pounds of cargo to the station’s Expedition 37 crew. The crew will capture Cygnus using the station’s robotic arm and attach the spacecraft to the station.
Cygnus will execute a series of excercises to evaluate its technology. The chief test the spacecraft is slated to undergo is whether it can safely enter the space station’s “keep-out sphere”, a sphere with a radius of 656 feet that surrounds the station.
“Today’s launch is the culmination of more than five years’ work between the NASA and Orbital teams,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, NASA’s program manager for commercial crew and cargo, in a NASA press release. “Everyone involved should be extremely proud, and we are looking forward to a successful series of checkouts between now and when Cygnus reaches the space station this weekend.”
On Sunday, a software problem forced the robotic commercial cargo ship for the International Space Station skip its first attempt to link up with the orbiting lab by delaying the spacecraft’s arrival for at least 48 hours.
The unmanned Cygnus spacecraft built by Orbital Sciences Corp. was expected to be captured by a robotic arm operated by astronauts inside the space station on Sunday but failed in its attempt due to a rendezvous glitch.
The Cygnus spacecraft is a bus-size spacecraft shaped like a large cylinder. It is about 17 feet (5 meters) long and 10 feet (3 m) wide, and designed to haul up to 4,409 pounds (2,000 kilograms) of cargo in its current configuration.
For this first test flight, the Cygnus cargo ship is packed with about 1,543 pounds (700 kg) of supplies and gear.
Orbital Sciences is one of two commercial spaceflight companies with billion-dollar deals to provide cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. The other company is the Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.