An unmanned U.S. commercial cargo ship flew itself to the International Space Station on Sunday, completing the primary goal of its debut test flight before supply runs begin in December.
Cygnus was launched from NASA\’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in the state of Virginia on September 18 and was originally supposed to dock with the space station on September 22 but a software navigation problem pushed the docking date to Sunday.
NASA says that the docking process began last Thursday night with a series of thruster burns in space that pointed Cygnus toward the space station, which is now home to a crew of five men and one woman representing Russia, the United States and the European Space Agency.
As Cygnus closed in on the space station, flight engineers Luca Parmitano of Italy and Karen Nyberg of the U.S. worked with Mission Control on capturing the cargo craft. Cygnus pointed a tracking laser at the orbiting space lab, and then a robotic arm made the grapple and capture when Cygnus moved to within ten meters.
The crew will eventually attach Cygnus to the space station at a berthing area.
Cygnus is owned by the Orbital Sciences corporation of Dulles, Virginia. It is the second company to send a commercial cargo craft to the space station. SpaceX already has two demonstration cargo missions completed.