An Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it launches from Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, Wallops Island, VA.
During the second NASA-contracted SpaceX Dragon cargo run to the International Space Station (ISS) Sunday morning (March 3, 2013), Canadian astronaut, soon-to-be ISS commander and hugely popular orbital Twitter user Chris Hadfield kept tabs on the Dragon berthing. Here are the stunning views he captured during the successful capture. Here, the Dragon capsule is grappled by the station's robotic arm -- an instrument designed and built by MDA Space Missions for the Canadian Space Agency. "Tonight's Finale: A Dragon, snared and tamed by Canadarm2. Saint George ringing in a new era in the silence of space," Hadfield tweeted. Here are some more views shared by Hadfield with the world via his Twitter account, @Cmdr_Hadfield.
The Canadarm2 awaits the arrival of the Dragon capsule. The robotic arm is the primary component of the space station's Mobile Servicing System (MSS) that was installed in 2001. The Canadarm2 provides support to astronauts on board the station -- berthing spacecraft, providing maintenance services and moving equipment around the station's exterior. "Canadarm2, proud builder of the International Space Station, in preparation for the successful grabbing of a Dragon," tweeted Hadfield.
"Dragon comes into view - first sight this morning, sneaking up on us from behind the Progress solar array," tweeted Hadfield, referring to one of the solar panels of the docked Russian Progress cargo vehicle.
"Self-portrait in the Cupola with rising Dragon below, Africa behind."
As the Dragon approached the space station, there were plenty of photo ops for the astronauts. "The Dragon spaceship high over Mount Etna - both spitting fire," said Hadfield as the spacecraft passed over the east coast of Sicily, Italy.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft over the Sahara Desert before space station berthing on March 3, 2013.
"Like a Praying Mantis, Canadarm2 poised to reach out and grab Dragon."
"Success! Canadarm2 holds Dragon by the nose, to drag it up and hook it on to a Station hatch," said Hadfield via his Twitter account when the Dragon was snared at 5:31 am EST Sunday morning.
Orbital Sciences, one of two firms hired by NASA to fly cargo to the International Space Station after the space shuttles were retired, successfully launched its first supply ship on Thursday.
The company’s Antares’ rocket, carrying a cargo ship called Cygnus, blasted off from a commercial spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia, at 1:07 p.m. EST, the first step of a 2.5-day journey to the station.
Launch was delayed twice this week by weather issues; first by the frigid cold and then by an unusual space weather event — high radiation from a massive solar flare.
If all goes as planned, astronauts aboard the station will use the outpost’s robotic arm to latch on to the capsule shortly after 6 a.m. EST on Sunday and dock it to a berthing port on the station’s Harmony node.
The capsule is loaded with nearly 2,800 pounds of cargo, including science experiments, computers and supplies for the six-member, live-aboard station crew.
The freighter also carries belated Christmas gifts, as the launch originally was planned for December. NASA delayed the flight when one of the station’s cooling systems shut down and astronauts needed to conduct a pair of spacewalks to install a spare pump.
While fresh science experiments and food, including fruit, were replaced, the gifts stayed.
“We haven’t changed them out for Valentine’s cards,” joked Orbital Sciences’ Frank Culbertson, a former astronaut and station commander who now serves as the firm’s executive vice president.
Orbital Sciences and Space Exploration Technologies, which also flies cargo for NASA, plan to make up to six trips to the station this year.
Orbital Sciences, which has a $1.9 billion contract for nine flights, made a successful demonstration run to the station in September. SpaceX is preparing for its third cargo run on Feb. 22.