Cygnus Arrives at ISS With First Private Cargo Shipment

  • Jan 12, 2014 4:55pm GMT

A privately launched cargo ship packed with late Christmas presents and space-traveling ants linked up with the International Space Station on Sunday (Jan. 12) in a milestone delivery mission for the astronauts onboard.

Space station astronauts used a robotic arm to capture the unmanned Cygnus spacecraft early Sunday morning and attach it an open docking port as both spacecraft sailed 260 miles (418 kilometers) above Earth. The special delivery comes courtesy of the Dulles, Va.-company Orbital Sciences Corporation, which launched the Cygnus spacecraft on Thursday (Jan. 9) to make its first commercial resupply mission to the station for NASA.

The Cygnus spacecraft is carrying 2,780 lbs. (1,260 kilograms) of gear for the space station crew, including fresh fruit and Christmas gifts. It is also delivering eight ant farms to the station for weightlessness research, 23 student experiments and small cubesat satellites among the science gear.

"The cargo is comprised of vital science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and other hardware," NASA officials said in a statement. "One newly arrived investigation will study the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics during spaceflight. Another will examine how different fuel samples burn in microgravity, which could inform future design for spacecraft materials."

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Image courtesy NASA.