An unmanned spacecraft carrying 6,300 pounds of supplies and science experiments caught up Saturday morning with the International Space Station as it flew 252 miles above the Indian Ocean.
The Cygnus spacecraft, made by Dulles-based Orbital ATK, had launched late Tuesday from Cape Canaveral on its journey to the orbiting laboratory. Flying at more than 15,000 mph, the spacecraft was captured by the station’s robotic arm at 6:51 a.m. Eastern time in what a NASA official called a “textbook rendezvous.”
The spacecraft was launched atop an Atlas V rocket that Oribtal ATK hired from the United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The first stage of the Atlas V’s engines cut off slightly early, forcing the second stage to compensate to get the spacecraft into the correct orbit.
As a result, ULA said it would delay the rocket’s next scheduled launch by a week so it could “further review the data anomaly” experienced during the launch.
But as the robotic arm grappled the spacecraft Saturday morning, NASA said the spacecraft “executed to perfection.” It is the first of three resupply missions to the station in coming weeks.
Next week, a Russian Progress is expected to arrive at the station, followed by SpaceX’s Dragon capsule in April. That launch would be SpaceX’s first to the station NASA since its Falcon 9 rocket blew up last year on a similar mission to deliver supplies to astronauts.