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Cygnus Spacecraft Makes Historic Rendezvous With Space Station 44

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-the-success-lock dept.
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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Cygnus Spacecraft Makes Historic Rendezvous With Space Station

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 29, 2013 @08:36AM (#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.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @08:48AM (#44985199) Journal
    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.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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!

    • by cdrudge (68377) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @09:55AM (#44985513) Homepage

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

      • 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."

    • by Teancum (67324)

      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 space

      • 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

        • by M1FCJ (586251)

          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...

          • by Teancum (67324)

            US should learn how to be an ex-imperial society just like the other old empires.

            Simple question: Why?

          • 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,
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @08:53AM (#44985225)

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

    • by jthill (303417)
      So I'm guessing you've never watched an idiot corporate hack characterize his own response to his own failures, then?
    • The quote came from a commercial corporate journalist, not a government source. Blame the private sector for this one.

    • by Teancum (67324)

      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 (Score:5, Funny)

    by isny (681711) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @09:13AM (#44985305) Homepage
    They were delivering a large red robot with spinning knives for hands.
    • Off to find the Black Hole...
  • 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.
  • 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? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jlv (5619) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @11:25AM (#44985963) Homepage

    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? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by foniksonik (573572) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @12:45PM (#44986391) Homepage Journal

      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? (Score:4, Informative)

      by FullBandwidth (1445095) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @02:03PM (#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."
    • by Teancum (67324)

      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 fa

  • by bjwest (14070) on Sunday September 29, 2013 @04:06PM (#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.

    • 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.
    • by sahonen (680948)
      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 sec
      • by Bomazi (1875554)

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

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