Antares launch with Cygnus.

Antares launch with Cygnus. Credits: NASA-B. Ingalls

Volare mission director Roland Luettgens sends an update on the next spacecraft to visit the International Space Station:

The crew on the International Space Station is getting ready for receiving another visiting vehicle at the end of this week. After a few weeks of busy vehicle traffic, the crew has been reduced to three instead of six. The next expedition crew members, Oleg Kotov, Sergei Ryazanskiy and Mike Hopkins  are still on ground and getting ready to fly to the Space Station on 25 September. They are called Expedition 38 and will be Luca’s crewmates until he returns in November.

Until then a lot is happening on Station and at the Control Centres, we need to get ready for the next space vehicle arriving to dock with the orbital outpost.The Antares launcher lifted off Wednesday, bringing the Cygnus module into orbit to dock with the Station on Sunday 22 September. The Antares launcher is a 40 m high and 3.9 m wide and weighted 290 000kg. After its arrival it will stay approximately 30 days attached.

The Cygnus spaceship will berth to the front of the Space Station near the European Columbus module.


Computer model of Space Station with Cygnus attached. Credits: NASA

Computer model of Space Station with Cygnus attached. Credits: NASA

As part of the preparation of the arrival of the Cygnus vehicle a lot of work is happening on ground as well as in orbit. The astronauts play an essential role in the arrival of the Cygnus. The resupply ship will arrive very close to the Station and Luca will perform the so-called robotics activities. To connect the spaceship to the Station, Luca and Karen will control the the Station’s robotics arm and grab the Cygnus when it is close enough. After connection to the robotics arm, they will pull the vehicle slowly towards the Station and berth it. This is planned to happen on Sunday at around 11:30 GMT.

It is a complex operation and the ground teams as well as the astronauts will follow this manoeuvre closely including video provided by cameras mounted on the Station’s exterior.

The astronauts and us are looking forward to the arrival of Cygnus and Luca’s work and another very busy weekend at the Control Centres and in space.