On Jan. 9, Orbital Sciences launched its Antares rocket, boosting the company's unmanned Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. Two and a half days later on Sunday, the spacecraft, loaded with supplies and experiments, caught up with the orbiting outpost where Expedition 38 astronauts grappled the spacecraft and berthed it in a flawless operation. Here's what the astronauts and cosmonauts on board the space station saw.
As the Cygnus cargo ship increased its orbit toward the space station, Expedition 38 crew members had a golden opportunity to photograph the mission. The vehicle was named "C. Gordon Fullerton" after the space shuttle NASA astronaut who sadly died in 2013.
Shown here, the Cygnus spacecraft flies above an ocean dotted with fluffy clouds. Orbital Sciences isn't the only commercial space company to be contracted to resupply the space station. Orbital is working in tandem with Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, under a NASA contract.
As the Cygnus spacecraft gets closer, space station astronauts control the Canadarm2 robotic arm to begin berthing procedures. "Cygnus" is Latinized Greek for "Swan" and a constellation in Northern Hemisphere skies.
Canadarm2 inches closer to Cygnus as the space station passes over the southwestern Alps.
A closeup of Cygnus and Canadarm2.
As the space station orbits into the shadow of Earth, the grappled Cygnus spacecraft is carefully guided toward the space station's Harmony module where berthing will be completed.
Berthed! With Cygnus attached to the space station's Harmony module, Orbital Sciences first contracted resupply run is complete.