September 21, 2017

Bags are packed inside Cygnus commercial cargo freighter

Technicians load cargo inside the Cygnus spacecraft's pressurized supply section in this photo taken Oct. 20. Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Technicians load cargo inside the Cygnus spacecraft’s pressurized supply section in this photo taken Oct. 20. Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

The first installment of supplies and provisions tagged for launch on Orbital ATK’s next commercial supply run to the International Space Station, the company’s first since a catastrophic launch failure last year, has been loaded into the Cygnus spacecraft’s pressurized cargo section.

Technicians will install more cargo next month before sealing the Cygnus spaceship’s hatch for launch. When the automated cargo capsule blasts off Dec. 3, it will haul up approximately 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) to the International Space Station.

The flight is Orbital ATK’s fourth commercial resupply mission to the complex, out of 10 cargo launches currently on contract with NASA.

The Cygnus spacecraft's pressurized cargo module and service module are mated in this photo from Oct. 22. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Cygnus spacecraft’s pressurized cargo module and service module are mated in this photo from Oct. 22. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Ground crews connected the Cygnus spacecraft’s pressurized cargo module, made in Italy by Thales Alenia Space, with the ship’s propulsion and power segment inside Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility on Oct. 22. The next step calls for the spacecraft to be transferred to a nearby fueling facility to receive propellant for in-space maneuvers and a final load of time-sensitive supplies.

Then the spacecraft will be enclosed within the nose cone of its Atlas 5 rocket in mid-November, followed by its shipment to Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 launch pad for lifting atop the launcher.

NASA contracted with SpaceX and Orbital ATK for resupply services to the space station in 2008. The next Cygnus flight, dubbed OA-4, is Orbital ATK’s first mission since the company’s third cargo flight crashed shortly after liftoff in October 2014.

Engineers rotate the Cygnus cargo module in preparation for its attachment to the service module, seen at the bottom of this image from Oct. 21. Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis
Engineers rotate the Cygnus cargo module in preparation for its attachment to the service module, seen at the bottom of this image from Oct. 21. Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

It is also the first commercial cargo flight to the station from U.S. soil since a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disintegrated minutes after launch in June, grounding that firm’s launch manifest.

Orbital ATK purchased two Atlas 5 rocket launches from United Launch Alliance to keep the Cygnus missions flying while outfitting its Antares booster with new engines.

The OA-4 mission will mark the first time the Cygnus spacecraft will fly with new circular solar arrays and an enlarged cargo module to accommodate extra supplies.

More photos of the Cygnus spacecraft’s processing are posted below.

Technicians add cargo containers to the Cygnus spacecraft's pressurized module in this Oct. 21 image. Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis
Technicians add cargo containers to the Cygnus spacecraft’s pressurized module in this Oct. 20 image. Credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis
Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis
The Cygnus spacecraft's service module is removed from its shipping container in this Oct. 15 image after its arrival at the Kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing Facility from Orbital ATK's factory in Dulles, Virginia. Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
The Cygnus spacecraft’s service module is removed from its shipping container in this Oct. 15 image after its arrival at the Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility from Orbital ATK’s factory in Dulles, Virginia. Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
The Cygnus cargo module is hoisted atop the service module inside KSC's Space Station Processing Facility on Oct. 22. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The Cygnus cargo module is hoisted atop the service module inside KSC’s Space Station Processing Facility on Oct. 22. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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