A disposable spaceship
Unlike SpaceX's Dragon, Cygnus spacecraft are disposable vehicles designed for one-way delivery trips to the space station. At the end of their missions, they will be filled with trash and commanded to burn up in Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
The first Cygnus is expected to spend at least 30 days at the space station before being discarded in mid-October. Orbital named the spacecraft the Spaceship G. David Low after a former NASA astronaut who oversaw Orbital's successful bids for its NASA contracts. Low died of cancer in 2008.
Built for Orbital by Thales Alenia Space in Italy, the baseline Cygnus model is about 17 feet (5 meters) long and can carry up to 4,409 pounds (2,000 kilograms) of cargo to the space station. A larger version of the craft, called the "enhanced" design, is expected to haul even more supplies.
But for this first Cygnus demonstration flight (which Orbital has dubbed the Orb-D1 mission), the spacecraft is carrying just over 1,500 pounds (700 kg) of food, clothing and spare parts to support the space station's Expedition 37 crew.
"It is not fully packed for this demonstration mission, but it certainly has some important supplies," Lindenmoyer told reporters here Tuesday (Sept. 17).
Culbertson said NASA likely has included a little bonus care package amid the cargo for the space station's crew.
"We don't actually open the bags to look at them," Culbertson quipped Tuesday. "But, yes, there are some goodies for the astronauts on board."