Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter is open for business just five hours after it was attached to the International Space Station today. The Expedition 63 crew will now begin unloading almost 8,000 pounds of scientific investigations, technology demonstrations, commercial products, crew supplies, and an advanced space toilet.
The Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 8:01 a.m. EDT while the spacecraft were flying about 261 miles above the South Pacific Ocean. Cygnus will remain at the space station until its departure in mid-December. Following departure, the Saffire-V experiment will be conducted prior to Cygnus deorbit and disposing of several tons of trash during a fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere approximately two weeks later.
After standard depressurization and configuration activities, Commander Chris Cassidy opened the hatch to Cygnus. He entered the cargo craft wearing goggles and a mask to protect against potential dust and debris which is normal procedure when entering a docked cargo ship for the first time. The U.S. resupply ship will stay attached to the Unity module until mid-December when its cargo mission ends.
Cassidy and Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner spent Monday morning monitoring Cygnus approach and rendezvous following its Friday night launch. At 5:32 a.m. EDT, Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA used the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to grapple the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft as Ivan Vagner of Roscosmos monitored Cygnus systems during its approach. Next, ground controllers took over the Canadarm2 and remotely installed Cygnus, dubbed the S.S. Kalpana Chawla, on the bottom of the station’s Unity module about an hour-and-a-half later.
The Cygnus spacecraft for this resupply mission is named in honor of Kalpana Chawla, who made history at NASA as the first female astronaut of Indian descent. Chawla, who dedicated her life to understanding flight dynamics, lost her life during the STS-107 mission when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere.
Vagner later joined his fellow cosmonaut and Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin for medical tests while wearing the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit. The specialized suit prevents blood from pooling toward a crew member’s head, a common space symptom called “puffy face,” that may cause head pressure and vision issues. The duo also worked on a variety of Russian science and maintenance tasks today.