Cygnus cargo ship arrives at ISS with solar panel covered • Register

Cygnus cargo ship arrives at ISS with solar panel covered • Register

The Cygnus cargo ship has successfully reached the International Space Station despite the failure of half of its solar panels.

The Cygnus vehicle, built by Northrop Grumman and named SS Sally Ride — after the late physicist and the first American woman to fly in space in 1983 — launched Monday atop the company’s Antares 230+ rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia.

Mission control later discovered that one of its two solar panels had not deployed properly. Engineers have given up trying to fix the problem and said the spacecraft has enough power to reach the ISS in its less-than-ideal condition. Luckily, they were right, and as it got closer, astronaut Nicole Mann retrieved it using the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm at 05:20 ET (10:20 UTC) on Wednesday.

“During the rocket stage separation event, debris from the Antares acoustic shroud became lodged in one of the Cygnus solar array mechanisms, preventing it from opening,” Cyrus Dhalla, vice president and general manager, Tactical Space Systems at Northrop Grumman, he said in a statement. “The successful docking was achieved thanks to Cygnus’ robust design and the resilience and ingenuity of the NASA and Northrop Grumman teams.”

The Cygnus freighter carries 3,719.5 kg (8,200 lb) of cargo and science experiments. Experiments include: human heart cells and a partial human knee meniscus (astronauts will use a 3D bioprinter to help scientists compare the differences between human tissues printed in microgravity and on Earth); bovine ovarian cells (which could one day improve fertility treatments in space); mudflow patterns (which will be studied to understand how mudflows after wildfires can carry heavy boulders and debris downhill and destroy buildings); and three cubes.

Cubesats will be launched to observe the growth of Earth and agriculture. Cygnus also brought a mounting bracket, which astronauts will attach to the right side of the station’s truss assembly during a spacewalk scheduled for next week. The instrument will also be used to install a new set of solar arrays later in the year.

The vehicle will remain tethered to the ISS until January and be loaded with debris before being sent back to Earth to be destroyed upon re-entry. ®

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