Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei
Washington: Orbital Sciences Corporation`s Cygnus cargo spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS) early Sunday, said the US space agency NASA.
The unmanned Cygnus spacecraft, which is the first commercial supply mission by Orbital, berthed with the space station at 6.08 a.m. EDT (1108 GMT) nearly two hours after a robotic arm reached out and grabbed the incoming cargo carrier.
Crew members on the ISS will open the hatch Monday and unload 2,780 pounds of supplies, food and experiments, said the news release.
NASA said Cygnus will remain at the station until mid-February before being loaded with trash and sent back to Earth. It will burn up on re-entry to Earth`s atmosphere and will disintegrate over the Pacific Ocean
With the mission, Orbital officially joins SpaceX as a resupply carrier to the space station.
NASA has contracts with both Orbital and SpaceX to supply the space station after the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.
Orbital Sciences, which has $1.9-billion contract with NASA, will fly at least eight cargo missions to the space station under the space agency`s commercial supply program. Orbital`s next flight is scheduled for May 1.
California-based SpaceX became the first private company to reach the space station with its Dragon capsule in 2012. Under a $1.6 billion contract with the NASA, SpaceX has so far made two of its 12 scheduled flights to the ISS.
SpaceX is due to send its third commercial cargo mission to the ISS shortly aboard the Dragon capsule.
Orbital`s Cygnus spacecraft was launched atop the Antares rocket Thursday from NASA`s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.