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Cygnus Spacecraft Makes Historic Rendezvous With Space Station

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the open-the-success-lock dept.

Space 44

An anonymous reader writes "Orbital Sciences Corp's robotic Cygnus spacecraft made history by docking with the International Space Station early Sunday. From the article: 'The robotic Cygnus spacecraft was captured by space station astronauts using the outpost's robotic arm at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) as the two spacecraft sailed over the Indian Ocean. The orbital arrival, which occurred one week later than planned due to a software data glitch, appeared to go flawlessly.'"

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44 comments

"Cygnus" means "swan" in Latin. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44985145)

Just so that everybody here knows, "cygnus" is Latin for "swan". I think that it's a very apt name for this amazing electromechanical device.

Just like swans, this spacecraft is strong and regal. It is proud of who it is. And it is what it wants to be; it does not cater to the whims and desires of others.

And just like swans, this spacecraft is about ruling its domain. While the swan rules the pond and the stream, this spacecraft rules the orbit of the Earth.

Yet again like swans, I doubt that this spacecraft would hesitate for a moment when it comes to destroying a man's genitalia.

If any spacecraft is to have the name Cygnus, I think that this one is very deserving.

Re:"Cygnus" means "swan" in Latin. (3)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 months ago | (#44985391)

They should have named it Phoenix. Reading from The Fancy Article: "Cygnus spacecraft are designed to burn up in Earth's atmosphere at the end of their missions." It may go up all strong and regal, but it comes back as ashes.

Re:"Cygnus" means "swan" in Latin. (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about 7 months ago | (#44985793)

Then it sounds like Cygnus is more appropriate. The Phoenix was reborn from ashes. In this case the flight of the Cygnus spacecraft is its swan song since it won't live to see another day.

Re:"Cygnus" means "swan" in Latin. (2)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | about 7 months ago | (#44986059)

By that definition, you might as well call it Congress.

Re:"Cygnus" means "swan" in Latin. (2)

nextekcarl (1402899) | about 7 months ago | (#44986157)

If it was supposed to burn up in the atmosphere but instead crashed into a heavily populated city, ruining it for all time, then Congress would be a good name.

How was this historic? (5, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 months ago | (#44985199)

This is really not that historic. They were not first private company to their. That was SpaceX. They did not build the unit that docked there. That was thale. The did not build the rocket. That was Russia and other companies of America.

OSC simply assembled other ppl's work and called it theirs, while claiming enough money to pay for it all. IOW, OSC really did not put skin into the game.

So again, nothing historic here.

Re:How was this historic? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44985383)

its "historic" in that the public are being beamed into believing that everything in the space-tech-industry is OK; while in reality, the HISTORIC PRECEDENT you mentioned is really a sort of "de-flagging" of the best the Nation has to offer. Nowadays, the rhetoric says that corporate-for-profit entities are the answer to inefficent state-custodianship of vital sectors. This is dangerous, as corporate entities honestly do not give a poop about PEOPLE, THE ENVIRONMENT, THE PLANET, or anything other than the so-called "bottom-line".

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING, the ISS may now change its name to something reflective of multinational-corporate-corruption.

Honestly, when a country on the other side of the fence tries to launch a satellite, the corporate junited states of amerika (via its minions/client-states) cries wolf/foul.
meanwhile, the israelis are sending ultramodern-weaponry (as well as WMD) into space while nobody`s looking (or at least the space-journal-ists aren`t).
There was one journalist who was going to *write* an article about israeli space-weaponry in AMERICAN SCIENTIST, but he (ignorantly) tried to "secure" the deal with the editor, ON HIS MOBILE-TELEPHONE!. He has been abducted.
SOMEONE should expose the israeli vermin for the interNAZIZIONal profiteering-vampire den that they are.

Congressmen?
Spooks?
Slashdot?

better keep my mouth shut

probably write.

wasnt AMDOCS the telephone metadata company that got busted for spying on the Finnish Embassy encryption in Tokyo? superluminous!
FOXCOMM, now thats old-hat, yes bugging the congressmen/women and senators themselves! and from abroad at that! truly an outrage to gentile-manly conduct.

Re:How was this historic? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 7 months ago | (#44986331)

This is dangerous, as corporate entities honestly do not give a poop about PEOPLE, THE ENVIRONMENT, THE PLANET, or anything other than the so-called "bottom-line".

And you think governments care about anything other than money, power and getting re-elected?

How touchingly naive.

BTW, SpaceX launched their upgraded Falcon 9 for the first time this morning. They don't seem to have said yet whether the first stage recovery test worked.

Re:How was this historic? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44985467)

So again, nothing historic here.

It's like academic research: Lots of people might have worked long hours to make things happen, but in the end, somebody has to suck it up and take the credit. In this case, apparently that's OSC.

Three cheers to OSC for taking one for the team!

Re:How was this historic? (3, Funny)

cdrudge (68377) | about 7 months ago | (#44985513)

Something happened. It's now history. Therefor it's historic.

Re:How was this historic? (1)

capedgirardeau (531367) | about 7 months ago | (#44986237)

It is a common confusion in English.

Historic means a very important, significant event happened.

Historical means just anything that happened in the past.

So really, you would say: "Something happened. It's now history. Therefor it's historical."

Re:How was this historic? (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 7 months ago | (#44987037)

So again, nothing historic here.

Just because it has been done before doesn't make this routine. More importantly, that there are now two companies with proven track records of delivering bulk cargo to the ISS, it implies that a disaster or major engineering flaw on one spacecraft won't stop the other spacecraft type from continuing to fly.

History is filled with examples of how fatal flaws resulted in a great many missed opportunities in space. In fact, with regards to the ISS if there was until very recently a flaw in the Progress spaceship or the Soyuz rocket, the astronauts on board the ISS would need to come back to the Earth almost immediately and it might even be possible that the ISS would need to be de-orbited within a year or so. Now that there are several options available for resupplying the ISS, people up there can at least stick around without having to be so paranoid that they might starve to death or die if they stick around.

Commercial crew options being done by Boeing (with the CST-100) and SpaceX (with the Dragon) will make even the possibility that one of those spacecraft or even the Soyuz being grounded as only a minor inconvenience instead of a life-threatening catastrophe.

A similar kind of thing happened when the Apollo spacecraft were discontinued, as Skylab was left to crash into Australia (they were aiming for the Pacific Ocean and sort of missed). Waiting for the Space Shuttle to get built and fly to Skylab (one of the early missions that had some preliminary planning) meant that delays in getting that vehicle launched cost at least one long-term mission in space. When the Challenger and later the Columbia were destroyed, it also grounded the Space Shuttle fleet and effectively killed manned spaceflight operations for NASA until the problems were fixed.

Simply put, having a company like Orbital being available to take payloads up to the ISS really increases flexibility for everybody involved, not to mention that Orbital also has a spacecraft in the form of Antares which can do a whole lot of other things for other people if they need a commercial option for putting things into space. If SpaceX really screws up, they are no longer the only company capable of going into space.

Besides, this is interesting anyway and worthy of "news for nerds, stuff that matters". Who gives a damn if it is historic or not?

Re:How was this historic? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 months ago | (#44987583)

Just because it has been done before doesn't make this routine. More importantly, that there are now two companies with proven track records of delivering bulk cargo to the ISS, it implies that a disaster or major engineering flaw on one spacecraft won't stop the other spacecraft type from continuing to fly.

Oh, I am a big fan of redundancy, esp. for space systems. NASA under Nixon, reagan, and W proved that we need multiple launch systems to be in space constantly. However, when it comes to delivering cargo to the ISS, there is Russia, and ESA that deliver on on Russian ports, and SpaceX, and Japan that use berthing of the west. IOW, we already had redundancy in terms of cargo to the ISS. What is REALLY needed right now, is human flight to be restored.

Now you pointed out 2 of the options which is CST-100 and actually, Dragon Rider. But there is a 3rd which is SNC's Dream Chaser.
And when one of these fly first with a human cargo, they will be historic since it will be the first private system to LEO. The second that follows it will NOT be historic since, like COTS, CCXDEV is designed to put multiple American human launcher systems into space. The 2'nd and 3rd will simply be following.

Oh, I am fine with it being posted. Just noting the fact that it was NOT historic, and that OSC really did not do that much. In fact, they did far less building then even Boeing and L-Mart do on their systems.

Re:How was this historic? (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | about 7 months ago | (#44987755)

Human flight to be restored? I did not know Chinese and Russians had stopped.

Oh, you mean, "USian" human flight capability to be restored? Why? US should learn how to be an ex-imperial society just like the other old empires, here in UK (we still have a massive dose of delusions of grandeur at the political level), France, little Holland, Portugal and Spain...

Re:How was this historic? (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 7 months ago | (#44989431)

First off, China does not go to the ISS (thankfully).
Secondly, for us to have bases in space and elsewhere, we need MULTIPLE launch systems. That way, when one has issues, then things can still go forward. Right now, the ISS is 100% dependent on Russia. We need for there to be 3 or more multiple human launchers and ideally at least 2 cargo launch systems in the same area. By that, I mean that ESA and Russia service cargo via the Russian ports. America has 2 services on the western berth (and now 3).

BTW, when SpaceX builds their 150-200 tonnes launch system over the next couple of years, we really need to have another complement it. Sadly, the SLS is NOT a good choice.

Re:How was this historic? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987443)

They were not first ... They did not build ... simply assembled other ppl's work and called it theirs, while claiming enough money to pay for it all.

you just described most companies in the US...

Huh? (2, Insightful)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 7 months ago | (#44985225)

You can tell the government is involved when an operation that happened a week late due to a "software data glitch" went "flawlessly".

Re:Huh? (1)

jthill (303417) | about 7 months ago | (#44985345)

So I'm guessing you've never watched an idiot corporate hack characterize his own response to his own failures, then?

Private corporation's journo., not a govt. quote (1)

fantomas (94850) | about 7 months ago | (#44985397)

The quote came from a commercial corporate journalist, not a government source. Blame the private sector for this one.

Re: Private corporation's journo., not a govt. quo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44985819)

The quote came from a commercial corporate journalist, not a government source. Blame the private sector for this one.

Yeah, the giveaway was this lame attempt at creating a nautical image:
> ...as the two spacecraft sailed over the Indian Ocean.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44985409)

Most of the week delay was related to orbital mechanics and getting pushed out due to the approach of Soyuz and not the software glitch.

Re:Huh? (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 7 months ago | (#44987059)

The capture at the ISS was flawless, even though the software glitch previously prevented the rendezvous and capture.

Try and spend a few days on Wikinews [wikinews.org] or some other volunteer news outlet, much less a commercial news publishing source before you can realistically start to criticize the kind of pressures that journalists find themselves under.

Cygnus (4, Funny)

isny (681711) | about 7 months ago | (#44985305)

They were delivering a large red robot with spinning knives for hands.

Re:Cygnus (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 7 months ago | (#44985375)

Off to find the Black Hole...

Re:Cygnus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44985407)

wtf?? stuxnet-wormhole is in the ISS?
well, they can stick their DuQu up their lavatory exhaust!

Re:Cygnus (1)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about 7 months ago | (#44985715)

There are three basic types, Mr. Pizer: the Wills, the Won'ts, and the Can'ts. The Wills accomplish everything, the Won'ts oppose everything, and the Can'ts won't try anything.

Remember (1)

djupedal (584558) | about 7 months ago | (#44985859)

Orbital Sciences works with the DOD for arms delivery, so don't think this passive activity press release means they're helping ship more cute robot toys up there.

Somewhat wasteful. (1)

fafaforza (248976) | about 7 months ago | (#44985909)

The pun is not intended, as the return trip for these craft is hauling away trash.

But it seems that these pods don't have any ceramic coating, so they completely disintegrate on reentry. That's a lot of precious metals and computing equipment to just throw away every time you fly up. Last I heard, there was a lot of pressure on precious metals mining, most of which is in China, who already are tightening the screws on pricing for foreigners.

Historic? (5, Informative)

jlv (5619) | about 7 months ago | (#44985963)

This is historic only in that Orbital Sciences is closest to NASA at heart.

Orbital has a $1.9B deal to provide 8 cargo flights. Each flight carries about 5000kg. Each is one way (no return payload).

SpaceX has a $1.9B deal to provide 12 cargo flights. Each flight carries about 10000kg. Each provides two way payload delivery.

Do the math. One of these makes sense. Unsurprisingly, the one that doesn't is the one that was stuck in orbit for a week.

At least Orbital is a bargain compared to NASA's shuttle-component-derived SLS.

Re:Historic? (3, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about 7 months ago | (#44986391)

They both make sense in that there is redundancy. Add the Soyuz with its human transport and escape pod and you've got a pretty good justification for keeping the ISS going. Without all three the ISS becomes a liability rather than an asset.

Re:Historic? (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | about 7 months ago | (#44987765)

You say redundancy, I say pork barrel economics.

Re:Historic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44989325)

years ago, the usa and the ussr COMMITTED TO DISMANTLING THEIR NUCLEAR WEAPONS.
Surely that means icbm`s are left without their nuclear warheads, and NASA, as a non-foreign agency with CLEARANCE should have been tasked with REPLACEMENT PAYLOADS, including satellites, astronauts, etc.etc, ALL AT SUPER DISCOUNT PRICES! fuck elon musk, fuck oppenheimer, fuck foriegn corrupt corporations, fuck the press, fuck the miltary-industrial-complex, and fuck the jEU (Arianne?"

certainly the keynsian economic status-quo is an infestation of un-gentile-manly entente-ities...

Re:Historic? (4, Informative)

FullBandwidth (1445095) | about 7 months ago | (#44986885)

Think you might want to check (and cite) those numbers again. I think you've confused launch mass with cargo mass. http://www.spacex.com/news/2013/03/03/happy-berth-day [spacex.com] - Dragon delivers 2300 lbs (1045 kg) cargo to ISS. http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/Publications/Cygnus_fact.pdf [orbital.com] - Cygnus delivers 2000 kg (standard) or 2700 kg (enhanced) to ISS. The vehicles serve two very different purposes upon reentry. Dragon brings back garbage and recoverable cargo, Cygnus just takes out the trash. That's one of the reasons that Cyngus carries a much greater payload to the ISS. So if you are going to do any kind of back-of-the-envelope calculation about which one is a better value for NASA, then you have to include the value of bringing the wanted & unwanted cargo back versus disposal. Your argument reminds me of the old "which is better, Mac or PC" arguments we used to have in the 20th Century. The answer is "two players are always better than one." Now, how can we extend that analogy to SLS ... "which is better, Mac, PC, or IBM/370 running MVS?" Hmm, IBM/370 may still be considered a lightweight compared to SLS... And what exactly do you mean by "stuck in orbit?" A functioning space vehicle that maneuvers and allows another visiting vehicle (Soyuz) to rendezvous, before making its own approach, hardly sounds "stuck."

Re:Historic? (2)

Teancum (67324) | about 7 months ago | (#44987125)

Note that when the COTS contract proposals were submitted to NASA in the original RfP, the amounts per flight requested by each company was sealed and not disclosed to other participants. In other words, this was a closed bid process, where price was also not the major factor.

Being critical of Orbital because they submitted a higher price bid (still substantially less than the bid that both ATK and Boeing submitted for the same project) than SpaceX is just simply disingenuous and horribly distorting the facts involved.

After the contract runs out for both companies, there certainly is going to be a whole lot more price competition between these companies and it will be interesting to see what subsequent flight costs are going to be for taxpayers in terms of resupplying the ISS. Regardless of what you may think of this kind of money being dumped into these companies, it is much cheaper paying these prices than using a cost-plus contract like United Launch Alliance wanted to use to do the same thing.

Docking with the International Space Station? (2)

bjwest (14070) | about 7 months ago | (#44987527)

'The robotic Cygnus spacecraft was captured by space station astronauts using the outpost's robotic arm at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) as the two spacecraft sailed over the Indian Ocean.

So this thing was flying along side the space station and the astronauts snatched it up and stuck it on the docking port. All lewd innuendoes aside, the Cygnus spacecraft didn't do anything other than match orbits. Not that I think matching orbits like that is a trivial ting, but it a hell of a lot easier to do than actually docking. Commercial satellite companies put objects in precision orbits all the time.

Re:Docking with the International Space Station? (2)

FullBandwidth (1445095) | about 7 months ago | (#44988113)

Yes, but for a geosynchronous vehicle to be in its station-kept orbit might be precision of something like 0.05 degrees (http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/station-keeping.html). Cygnus had to hold at 30m and again at 10m distance (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa2explore/sets/72157635370456732/show/ [flickr.com] , slide #11) for go/no-go decisions prior to moving to the docking position. Totally different orders of magnitude.

Re:Docking with the International Space Station? (1)

sahonen (680948) | about 7 months ago | (#44988753)

Orbital and SpaceX could easily take their craft in for docking themselves, but NASA's rules require them to do it this way. NASA's rules are that nobody is allowed to put something on a trajectory that intercepts the ISS, even for an instant, for any reason. This is the reason that a secondary payload on an earlier Falcon launch wasn't allowed to be put into its desired orbit. An engine failure on the Falcon's first stage required it to take a modified trajectory into orbit, at which point boosting the secondary payload would have required that, for an instant during its boost, its trajectory pass through the ISS. For this to be dangerous, it would have required the engine to fail in the middle of its burn at a very precise instant. NASA disallowed it, so the secondary payload wasn't able to perform its mission.

So, bringing a spacecraft in for docking requires you to put your craft on a collision course. Docking is just a low-speed collision, after all. NASA will not allow this, so anyone bringing payload to the station has to rendezvous and place the craft within range for the ISS to grab it and bring it in.

Re:Docking with the International Space Station? (1)

Bomazi (1875554) | about 7 months ago | (#44994677)

You're full of shit. The ATV, Progress, and Soyuz all dock directly with the station.

stupid summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44991345)

Why does this story summary incorrectly use the term " docking " when other people posting about the SpaceX mission got the terminology correct and used the term NASA did, " berthing " ?
Orbital Sciences fanboi? that umpossible.
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