Christmas arrives in space: ISS astronauts receive fresh fruit, 800 ants and 28 'doves'
The privately-launched Cygnus cargo ship delivered critical supplies as well as long-awaited gifts from the astronauts' families
Christmas has finally arrived in orbit, with a privately-launched resupply freighter delivering presents to the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) this weekend.
The delivery has been delayed repeatedly, first by cold weather in the US and the need to repair the ISS’s on-boarding cooling system, and most recently by the presence of a strong solar storm that could have disturbed the freighters’ navigation equipment.
The launch finally took place on 9 January, with the Orbital Sciences Corporation’s (OSC) Cygnus cargo ship successfully hooked and then berthed this weekend by the ISS’s robotic arm.
The mission was Orbital’s first carrying critical goods in a $1.9bn eight-flight contract with Nasa. The US space agency routinely employs private space flight companies to resupply the ISS after the retirement of its space shuttles in 2011.
Orbital delivered more than 1,360 kilograms of cargo including equipment, clothing, food and gifts from astronauts’ families. Some of the more welcome and unusual packages for the six-man ISS included crew a stash of fresh fruit, 800 ants and a flock of 28 Doves.
Whilst the ants are actual living creatures (they’ll be used in a series of science experiments studying the effects of microgravity), the Doves are in fact mini-satellites. They’re about the size of shoe-boxes and have been built by San Francisco startup Planet Labs.
The 28-strong ‘flock’ represent a new departure for satellite technology, which has previously relied on massive and extremely expensive craft.
The Doves will be an agile force, working in concert from a low orbit (310 miles up compared to the usual 500 mile height) to quickly deliver images to a range of clients. The company’s founders have said that their technology could be used for anything from tracking deforestation to helping target aid in disaster zones.
The 'Doves' before launch.
Whilst Planet Labs’ Doves will eventually be deployed in a new formation by the crew of the ISS, the Cygnus craft that ferried them into orbit will have a less productive fate. Once the astronauts have unloaded its cargo they will fill it with trash and fire back to Earth where it will disintegrate safely upon re-entry.
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...