Astronauts used the International Space Station’s robotic arm to grapple the Cygnus cargo spacecraft early Sunday morning, starting the process of bringing more than 5,100 pounds of supplies and research equipment aboard. The cargo’s experiments include one thing astronauts normally avoid: fire.
“The new experiments include studies on fire in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, collection of health-related data, and a new way to measure neutrons,” NASA says.
Aboard the station, NASA’s Kate Rubins and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Takuya Onishi snagged the Cygnus craft just before 7:30 a.m. ET; at the time, it was about 250 miles above Kyrgyzstan. The second phase of the rendezvous will begin at 9 a.m., when the cargo craft, built by aerospace company Orbital ATK, will be attached to the bottom of the ISS’s Unity module.
It’s been a busy weekend for the space station. On Friday, three astronauts — two Russians and one American — docked at the ISS, opened their hatch, and were greeted by the trio that was already aboard, giving the station its normal six-person crew.
Cygnus will stay at the station until mid-November — when it’ll be packed full of trash and cut loose so that it can burn up on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. During that final trip, NASA says, a “large-scale fire” will be ignited inside Cygnus, with measurements and images beamed back to Earth.