On 23 March 2016 Cygnus’ Orbital-CRS6 supply spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, USA. The spacecraft was put into the same orbit as the International Space Station but at a lower altitude.
Since then Orbital-6 has been gaining height as it approaches the Station. When the time comes tomorrow for the unmanned supply ship to dock with the Space Station, NASA astronaut-commander Tim Kopra will work with Tim Peake to grapple the spacecraft with the 17-meter Canadarm and bring it safely into contact with a berthing port.
Tim Kopra will be ‘M1’, operating the robotic arm while Tim Peake will be ‘M2’, monitoring the approach, communicating with ground control and commanding the vehicle.
The crew had a few refresher session last week to practice with the robotic arm, setting up a workstation in Europe’s Cupola observatory.
The crew spent 100s of hours before leaving Earth practicing these operations in simulations as the operation requires manoeuvring the arm in six dimension at the same time, while floating in microgravity.
Read ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano’s recount of how he helped grapple the Cygnus test-flight during his Volare mission in 2013 on his blog.
Watch the operation tomorrow, 26 March 2016, live via NASA TV from 9:30 UTC.
Schedule (times in UTC):
- 9:30 Saturday, March 26 – Coverage of the Rendezvous and Capture of the Orbital/ATK CRS-6 Cygnus Spacecraft at the ISS (Capture scheduled at 10:40
- 13:00 Saturday, March 26 – Coverage of the Installation of the Orbital/ATK CRS-6 Cygnus Spacecraft to the Space Station