The launch of the Cygnus demonstration mission under the joint “Commercial Orbital Transportation Services“ (COTS) research and development program between NASA and Orbital took place on September 18th aboard Orbital’s new Antares rocket, with rendezvous and berthing of the Cygnus spacecraft with the ISS accomplished on September 29. Besides the European and Japanese Space Agency’s resupply vehicles, the American Cygnus supply vehicle relies on the highly accurate opto-electronic sensors from Jena.
Within NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS), another eight “Cygnus” missions will be launched to the ISS through 2016, carrying up to 20,000 kilograms of cargo.
“It was a pleasure working with the Orbital team on providing the Rendezvous- and Docking Sensors. We look forward to future collaborations" Dr. Klaus Michel, COO of Jena-Optronik summarizes the joint work.
An RVS prototype has already been successfully demonstrated in orbit during two campaigns of the Space Shuttles STS-84 and STS-86 docking to the MIR space station in 1997. Since then the sensor is used on the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) as well as on the HTV (H-2 Transfer Vehicle). This long-time experience contributed significantly to the selection of the RVS by Orbital and enabled the precise navigation support of the mission.
RVS is a laser-based measuring instrument for the safe and automated approach to the ISS. The sensor uses a mirror system for the high-precision determination of distance and position of the spacecraft to the space station.