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Unmanned cargo ship docks with orbiting Space Station

Artist's rendering of Antares in flight. Photo: Orbital Sciences Corp

WASHINGTON (AFP): An unmanned cargo ship successfully berthed with the orbiting International Space Station on Sunday following a one-week delay due to a technical glitch, NASA said.

ISS astronauts "successfully captured the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo spacecraft with the station's robotic arm" at 1100 GMT (1630 IST), NASA said.

"Following its capture, the spacecraft is being manoeuvred by Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Karen Nyberg of NASA for installation onto the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony module," the space agency said on its website.

The Cygnus capsule, built by Virginia-based Orbital Sciences, launched on September 18 on a demonstration mission meant to show it can successfully deliver cargo to the space station.

Orbital Sciences has a USD 1.9 billion contract with NASA that requires the company to deliver freight to the ISS over the course of eight flights by the beginning of 2016.

However a software problem delayed the Cygnus spacecraft's planned approach to the research outpost. The capsule manufacturers eventually figured out how to fix what they called a data format mismatch.

Orbital Sciences is one of just two private US firms enlisted by NASA to carry payloads to the ISS.

California-based SpaceX already showed it could send its reusable Dragon capsule to the ISS bearing cargo in May 2012.

Cygnus's delay however allowed time for three new ISS crew members, Michael Hopkins of NASA and Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian space agency -- to launch aboard a Russian Soyuz.

Their Soyuz-TMA-10M capsule blasted off from Kazakhstan and docked successfully with the ISS just six hours later, in a new shortcut route now used by the Russian space agency.

The capsule orbited the Earth just four times on its way to the ISS as opposed to the usual 30, under a technique originally devised in the Soviet era but only adopted on a regular basis in the past year.

The orbiting space lab is typically staffed by six international astronauts -- travelling in overlapping groups of three -- who live on board for missions that last six months.


NASA  ISS  Cygnus  Spacecraft  

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