Meet Cygnus: the newest entry into the field of space cargo, & perhaps one day, human transportation!
Created by Orbital Sciences, Cygnus launched on September 18th 2013, and is designed to carry up to 5000 kilograms of equipment, clothes and food to our space faring friends up on the International Space Station. Cygnus joins SpaceX’s Dragon as the two private companies designated by NASA to resupply the space station in place of its former fleet of space shuttles.
- To get to space, Cygnus launched on a 40 metre tall rocket named Antares, also designed by Orbital Sciences.
- At 180 kilometres above Earth, the rocket shut off and Cygnus separated out from the top of Antares and will proceed on its mission to ISS after a series of safety and capability tests.
- To dock with ISS, Cygnus will park close to the station, where the Canadarm2 will capture and guide it to the Harmony port where it can be accessed.
- Though designed and created by an American company and organization, the Antares rocket is interestingly based on old Soviet era engine designs.
- Unlike the Dragon which can carry equipment back down to Earth, Cygnus is designed for a one way trip only, and after resupplying the Space Station will fall from orbit and burn up in our atmosphere.
- In all, NASA has spent nearly $2 billion dollars on its contract with Orbital Sciences, for a total of 8 resupply trips to the ISS over the course of the next 3 years.
- Though the initial launch of the Antares rocket and separation of Cygnus went smoothly, Cygnus has encountered problems with docking. It will require a software update before it can safety dock with the ISS.
- Wikipedia: Cygnus
- Orbital: Cygnus fact page
- Wall Street Journal: Orbital Sciences Launches Cargo Capsule for Space Station
- Space: Private Antares Rocket & Cygnus Spacecraft Explained & Cygnus vs. Dragon: How 2 Private Spaceships Stack Up
- NPR: Private Spacecraft Lifts Off With Space Station Supplies
- Space Fellowship: Station Crew Readies for Cygnus’ Sunday Arrival
- Reddit: Dear R/Space, why is NASA paying more for Cygnus resupply trips than Dragon?