Cygnus space freighter arrives at space station with 8,200 pounds of cargo aboard

The Cygnus NG-19 cargo freighter arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, Aug. 4, after a two-day space ride with 8,200 pounds (3,700 kilograms) of supply, experiments and new technology aboard. 

The craft, built by U.S. aerospace giant Northrop Grumman and named after astronaut Laurel Clark who perished during the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003, was the last to launch on a version of the company's Antares rocket using a first stage built in Ukraine. 

The craft arrived at the orbital outpost at 5:52 a.m. EDT (0952 GMT) on Friday when it was captured by the space station's robotic arm operated by astronauts Woody Hoburg and Frank Rubio. Berthing was confirmed around 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). Hatch opening is scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT (1500 GMT), per NASA Television.

Related: Antares rocket makes its final launch, sending cargo to the International Space Station

An image taken during a previous meeting between the ISS and the Cygnus cargo craft. (Image credit: NASA)

Among the cargo stowed inside the capsule is a new potable water dispenser (PWD), which will provide the International Space Station crew with hot water and improved sanitization, and a memory card that contains creative works from students from around the world. Cygnus will also deliver the equipment needed for several cutting-edge ISS research projects, including human brain cells that will be cultured into 3D cell models for gene therapy testing, a probe to measure plasma density over Earth and the final version of a spacecraft fire protection experiment.

The Cygnus NG-19 mission lifted off NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday (Aug. 1), at 8:31 p.m. EDT (0031 GMT). The spacecraft will remained docked at the station's Unity module until Oct. 2023. 

This was the 19th commercial resupply mission from Northrop Grumman and represented the final planned launch of the current version of the Antares rocket, the Antares 230 series, which uses a first stage built by Ukraine's Yuzhnoye State Design Office and Yuzhmash Machine Building factory and RD-181 engines from Russian company NPO Energomash. 

Northrop Grumman is now working on a new first stage in partnership with Firefly Aerospace, according to Space News. The new rocket, Antares 330, is expected to make its debut flight in mid-2025, Space News reported. In the meantime, the company will be launching its future cargo missions on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

Cygnus craft are currently used by Northrop Grumman on resupply missions to the ISS as part of the second Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. Since 2014, Northrop Grumman says that Cygnus has carried over 70,000 pounds (31,500 kg) of critical cargo to the space station. 

This article was updated at 8:30 a.m. EDT Aug. 4 with confirmation of the successful berthing.

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Robert Lea
Senior Writer

Robert Lea is a science journalist in the U.K. whose articles have been published in Physics World, New Scientist, Astronomy Magazine, All About Space, Newsweek and ZME Science. He also writes about science communication for Elsevier and the European Journal of Physics. Rob holds a bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy from the U.K.’s Open University. Follow him on Twitter @sciencef1rst.