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Watch a robotic arm on the ISS catch an incoming spacecraft

After launching on an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, on Saturday, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) early Monday.

Following the usual routine with arriving Cygnus cargo ships, an astronaut aboard the station used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the ship and then dock it with the Unity module.

NASA posted footage of Canadarm2 capturing Cygnus as both the spacecraft and the ISS orbited Earth at a speed of around 17,000 mph. In it, the robotic arm can be seen slowly reaching out to connect with the recent arrival.

The @NorthropGrumman #Cygnus space freighter was captured with the @CSA_ASC #Canadarm2 robotic arm controlled by @Astro_Raja at 4:44am ET today. More…

— International Space Station (@Space_Station) February 21, 2022

NASA astronaut Raja Chari controlled the robotic arm from inside the station, with the procedure completed at 4:44 a.m. ET on Monday.

Mission control in Houston then sent ground commands for the robotic arm to rotate and install Cygnus on the station’s Unity module Earth-facing port. It means the ISS is now hosting five spacecraft, namely Cygnus-17 and a SpaceX Crew Dragon, along with Russia’s Soyuz MS-19, Progress 79, and Progress 80.

All of the spacecraft docked with the ISS in February 2022.

NASA shared a video last week showing the final stages of Progress 80 docking with the station.

The Cygnus spacecraft has brought with it 8,300 pounds of scientific investigations and cargo to the orbiting outpost in what was the 17th resupply mission for Northrop Grumman. Upcoming research made possible by this latest mission includes, for example, an investigation from Colgate-Palmolive geared toward testing potential products to protect aging skin, new hydrogen sensors that will be tested for the space station’s oxygen generation system, and a study that will examine the effects of a drug on breast and prostate cancer cells.

Canadarm2 has been in use at the ISS since 2001, soon after the station first went into operation. It can reach 58 feet (17.6 meters) when fully extended, with its seven motorized joints enhancing versatility. The device hit the headlines in 2021 when it suffered a debris strike, though fortunately no serious damage occurred.

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