Cygnus on his way to the International Space Station
It has officially began the first operational Cygnus mission for cargo transport of supplies to the International Space Station.
After the success of the demonstration mission of the past September, this mission represents the first "fully loaded". In the hold of the pressurized cargo module (PCM), developed by Thales Alenia Space in Italy by Orbital Sciences Corporation, there are about a ton and a half of supplies (food, water , scientific experiments , instrumentation , etc.) for astronauts.
It will be indeed the "tenants" of the orbital outpost to welcome Cygnus on the ISS on 12th of January. The cargo module - with the help of the robotic arm of the ISS - will be dropped from the service module that has accompanied in orbit 400 km above the Earth and will be docked to the station. In particular, the PCM will be hooked to the port of Node 2, another form permanent outpost in orbit developed by Thales Alenia Space. After the necessary checks, the "hatch" will be opened and transfer operation will start. Since that time, the PCM, as all the modules developed by Thales Alenia Space for the ISS, due to its pressure becomes a viable environment for the astronauts that can move and work within it without any problems.
The company, a joint venture between Thales ( 67%) and Finmeccanica ( 33%), will supply to Orbital Sciences another 7 pressurized modules designed for cargo transport aimed for the International Space Station, for a total of nine units, as required by the contract CRS (Commercial Resupply service), signed by Orbital with NASA as part of the marketing of the service to transport cargo.
The loading capacity of the PCM vary depending on the configuration of the module: the one currently en route to the ISS, as the next two, it is the "standard" version, capable of carrying up to 2000 kg of cargo. Another 5 units are being developed in the "enhanced" configuration, with a transport capacity increased up to 2700 kg.
Tutti i moduli PCM sono sviluppati nel sito di Torino di Thales Alenia Space, con il contributo anche di team operanti a L’Aquila per alcune strumentazioni.
All PCM modules are developed on the site of Thales Alenia Space in Turin, with the help of team working in L'Aquila for some instruments.