Thales Alenia Space, 5th Cygnus Resupply Vessel successfully launched
On 6th December (10.44 pm Italian time) the fifth of eleven Cygnus resupply vessels for the International Space Station (ISS) was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on an Atlas V rocket. The Cygnus spacecraft is composed of two basic components: the Service Module and the Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) developed by Thales Alenia Space for Orbital ATK.
This PCM, flying in its enhanced configuration for the first time, accommodates 3508 kg (7,745 pounds) of cargo, including crew supplies, spare parts, and science equipment. The new configuration incorporates a number of upgrades as compared to the standard PCM utilized prior to this mission. These include a lighter and more efficient solution for storing and constraining the cargo inside the module, allowing for an increase in the mass and volume of cargo amount able to be transported to the ISS. In addition the new design is able to accommodate bags with both irregular shape and stiffness. The Cygnus PCM confirms the capability of satisfying also “last minute” mission needs, by maintaining the core structure and adapting the cargo housing solution.
This Cygnus spacecraft has a unique passenger, since it was carrying a very unusual experiment: POP 3D, the first European 3D printer useable in space, which could eventually be used for the "in situ" production of spare parts and tools for the International Space Station. Portable on Board 3D printer was built by Altran Italia as prime contractor, in conjunction with Thales Alenia Space and the Italian Institute of Technology.
Once Cygnus reaches the ISS, it will be captured by the station’s robotic arm and mated to the Nadir port of Node 1. Once its stay at the ISS is complete, the Cygnus spacecraft will be detached from the Node 1 to begin its destructive reentry in the atmosphere, thus burning a mass of wastes approximately equivalent to the cargo transported to the station.