Wednesday, December 7

NASA’s Cygnus successfully docks with the Space Station | Digital Trends Spanish

Despite only having one of its two solar panels deployed, NASA’s Cygnus spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday.

The Cygnus cargo spacecraft moments after being captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm controlled by NASA astronaut Nicole Mann on the space station. The deployed solar array can be seen on the left of the image. POT

The uncrewed Cygnus NG-18 spacecraft launched aboard an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia Monday morning, carrying more than 8,000 pounds of supplies for the crew aboard the station.

But several hours after launch, only one of the spacecraft’s two circular solar panels deployed properly.

The arrays help power the Northrop Grumman-built spacecraft, and so when the vehicle headed for the ISS, NASA decided to carry out checks on the stability and condition of the Cygnus before deciding whether to attempt the docking procedure.

The decision was made to proceed as usual, and at 5:20 am ET on Wednesday, NASA astronaut Nicole Mann used the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the approaching spacecraft.

Mission control in Houston then took over, commanding the arm to rotate Cygnus to its installation orientation before guiding it to dock with the space station’s Unity module port. The astronauts will soon enter the spacecraft to begin transferring supplies to the station.

The Cygnus mishap is a rare event, as 17 previous missions to the ISS since the first one in 2013 have passed without incident. Only once has Cygnus failed to reach the ISS, but that was due to a rocket explosion shortly after a launch in 2014.

It’s still unclear why the spacecraft’s second solar array didn’t deploy, though engineers will be relieved that docking was able to be accomplished without any apparent difficulty. Northrop Grumman and NASA will continue to look into the matter to try to determine why the second array remained closed.

The Cygnus spacecraft will remain docked with the ISS until the end of January, when it will depart and burn up as it enters Earth’s atmosphere.

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