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US commercial spacecraft docks with ISS

Updated: 2014-01-13 10:10
( Xinhua)

WASHINGTON - A commercial spacecraft, operated by US space company Orbital Sciences Corp., docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday morning on its first official cargo resupply mission to the orbiting lab.

The unmanned Cygnus spacecraft made its rendezvous with the station at 6:08 am EDT (1108 GMT) as the two flew 260 statute miles (about 418 km) over the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar.

"Capture of Cygnus by the station crew!" Orbital Sciences said in its launch blog.

Cygnus was then guided to its berthing port on the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony node where its installation was completed at 8:05 am EDT (1305 GMT).

Cygnus was launched atop the Antares rocket, also built by Orbital Sciences, on Thursday from US space agency NASA's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.

The arrival capped the company's first contracted cargo delivery flight to the station. Orbital Sciences proved the capability of the Cygnus spacecraft during its demonstration mission back in September last year.

"Our first mission ... was flawlessly executed," David Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Orbital Sciences, said in a statement, adding "Our whole team has performed at a very high level for our NASA customer."

Under a 1.9-billion-US dollar Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, Orbital Sciences will fly at least eight cargo missions to the station, including the mission currently underway, through 2016.

For its first official commercial resupply mission, the spacecraft is carrying 2,780 pounds (1,260 kg) of supplies to the station, including food, spare part and science experiments.

Orbital Sciences said the station crew will open the Cygnus hatch either later Sunday or Monday and begin unloading cargo over the coming days.

Cygnus will remain at the station until mid-February when it will be unberthed from the station for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean. That departure will clear the way for the arrival of California-based SpaceX's third commercial cargo mission aboard the Dragon spacecraft, NASA said.

These two back-to-back resupply missions by US companies "will mark a milestone in NASA's ability to deliver critical new science payloads to the only laboratory in space," the US space agency added.

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