Orbital becomes second private firm to send cargo craft to ISS
- The mission is the first for one of two private companies involved in carrying frieght to the ISS
- This ship will be loaded with trash and sent toward Earth, where it'll burn up on re-entry
- The trip is part of a $1.9 billion contract
- Next up will be a SpaceX mission in late February
(CNN) -- The first commercial supply mission by Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned Cygnus spacecraft has docked at the International Space Station, NASA said Sunday.
Crew members on the ISS will open the hatch Monday and unload 2,780 pounds of supplies and experiments, the news release said.
With the mission, Orbital officially joins SpaceX as a resupply carrier to the space station. Orbital successfully tested a spacecraft with a smaller payload in mid-September.
"From the men and women involved in the design, integration and test, to those who launched the Antares (rocket) and operated the Cygnus, our whole team has performed at a very high level for our NASA customer, and I am very proud of their extraordinary efforts," said David W. Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Orbital, in a written statement from the company.
The experiments sent up to the six ISS crew members include one that will study how different fuel samples burn in microgravity, which could help designers select future spacecraft materials.
The ship took off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia on Thursday aboard an Antares rocket. A previous attempt at launch was scrubbed in December because the ISS crew needed time to conduct spacewalks for repairs.
It took two hours Sunday morning for the crew to grab the spaceship and attach it to the ISS.
The Cygnus craft will be berthed for 37 days before being loaded with trash and sent back to Earth, Orbital said. It will burn up during re-entry over the Pacific Ocean, officials said.
Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to make eight flights to the space station under the space agency's commercial supply program.
NASA hired Orbital and SpaceX to start making cargo runs to the space station after retiring its fleet of space shuttles and turning much of its focus toward exploring deep into the solar system.
SpaceX has so far made two of its 12 scheduled flights to the ISS under a $1.6 billion contract. According to NASA's 2014 launch calendar, its next flight is due to launch on February 22 from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Orbital's next mission is scheduled for May 1.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
November 15, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
It's hard to top the tricky, first-ever landing on a comet but we'll try. Here are 11 other space missions to know about.
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 2227 GMT (0627 HKT)
November 2014 may well be remembered as the time when humanity first landed a robotic probe on the nucleus of a comet.
November 7, 2014 -- Updated 2321 GMT (0721 HKT)
Add another entry to the growing list of crazy footage captured by GoPro cameras.
November 1, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
It is in our DNA to explore the unknown. But pushing boundaries and exploring space is far from easy.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1542 GMT (2342 HKT)
If there's one thing we've learned about the CNN iReport community, it's that you all love to capture celestial events.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
It was the closest comet near-miss known to astronomers, but everything is alright.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
It wasn't a trick. But for space geeks, it sure was a treat.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 0025 GMT (0825 HKT)
Want to ride an elevator into space? A breakthrough in nanotechnology could mean we will be riding into space on a cable made of diamonds.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Astronauts lie motionless in a row of compartments with medical monitoring cables connected to their bodies, as their space ship cuts through the silent blackness.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1929 GMT (0329 HKT)
Scientists are closer to seeing a vast, invisible universe as a spectrometer in Earth orbit picks up possible clues of dark matter.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
The Soviets sent stray dogs up to conquer space. This is what happened next
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Life aboard the International Space Station.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0356 GMT (1156 HKT)
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
June 29, 2014 -- Updated 1551 GMT (2351 HKT)
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.