The commercial spacecraft Cygnus has docked successfully with the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time. Cygnus was launched on September 18th and scheduled to dock on September 22nd, but was forced to push back its docking to today due to data formatting issues and the arrival of a new space station crew. Despite this, Cygnus docked perfectly, being captured by the space station's robotic arm early this morning.
Cygnus was built by Orbital Sciences, one of two private companies (the other being SpaceX) to be awarded a billion-dollar contract to deliver supplies to the ISS following the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011. Orbital Sciences is contracted to make eight deliveries to the ISS, using their Antares rockets and Cygnus spacecraft.
Astronauts aboard the ISS are scheduled to open the hatch to Cygnus tomorrow. It brings with it over 1500 lbs of supplies; future flights will carry loads of over 4000 lbs. Cygnus is expected to stay docked to the ISS for 30 days, at which point it will disconnect and burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Cygnus's successful docking marks another milestone in NASA's partnership with private companies to transport materials to space. The next delivery using a Cygnus spacecraft could occur as early as December.