What goes into preparing a spacecraft for a cargo run to the space station? Take a peek behind the scenes with this gallery of photos from preparing the Cygnus spacecraft for its first cargo run since the last attempt ended in explosion last year.

Orbital Sciences’ ATK Cygnus is an uncrewed cargo craft designed for delivering equipment, experiments, and supplies to the International Space Station. This will be the fourth commercial resupply service mission for Orbital, OA-4. This mission is the first flight of the new, enhanced version capable of carrying 25% more mass than earlier versions. It is capable of delivering 3,500 kilograms (7,700 pounds) per launch. Because the contract between NASA and Orbital depends on transferring a certain amount of mass to the station, the company may be able to still hold up its end of the contract with the higher-capacity spacecraft.

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Previous Cygnus missions launched atop the Antares rocket, but this ended when the rocket’s rapid unscheduled disassembly in October 2014 revealed a flaw in the engine. Instead, the spacecraft will be launching on a United Launch Alliance rocket. It’ll launch on an Atlas V rocket with a Centaur upper stage while Orbital upgrades its rocket.

The 30-minute launch window opens at 6pm on December 3, 2015.

August 11, 2015: Engineers at the International Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center remove the shipping container hiding the Cygnus pressurized module in preparation to inspect and process it before joining it to the service module. Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann.

October 15, 2015: Engineers at the International Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center remove the shipping container protecting the Cygnus service module. The module holds the spacecraft’s propulsion system and solar arrays. Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann.

October 20, 2015: Engineers in the International Space Station Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center finish loading equipment and supplies into the Cygnus spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis.

October 20, 2015: Equipment is loaded into the pressurized cargo module [background] in preparation to joining it to the service module [foreground] within the International Space Station Processing Facility. Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis.

October 20, 2015: The Pressurized Cargo Module of the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft loaded with equipment and supplies destined for the space station. Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

October 20, 2015: Cygnus’ Pressurized Cargo Module fully-loaded with equipment and supplies destined for the space station. Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidaki

October 20, 2015: The hatch sealed and closed on a fully-loaded Cygnus spacecraft within the International Space Station Processing Facility. Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

October 21, 2015: Engineers rotating the Pressurized Cargo Module vertically on a work stand in preparation for joining it with the service module. Image credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

October 22, 2015: Technicians and engineers lower the Cygnus cargo module onto the service module within the International Space Station Processing Facility. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

October 28, 2015: The single-engine Centaur upper stage being transported from the Horizontal Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 37 to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center near Space Launch Complex 41. Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

October 29, 2015: A protective cover is draped over the Cygnus spacecraft in preparation for loading it onto a transport truck [right] that will transfer it from the International Space Station Processing Facility to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

October 29, 2015: The Orbital ATK Cygnus pressurized module recently arrived within the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility in preparation for being loaded with propellant. Image credit: NASA/Dan Casper

October 30, 2015: A crane pulls off the protective cover of the Orbital ATK Cygnus pressurized module within the high bay in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The module will be removed from the transporter and transferred to a work stand and loaded with propellant before being enclosed in the payload fairings. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett.

November 8, 2015: A large barge, the Delta Mariner, delivers United Launch Alliance rocket boosters to Port Canaveral in Florida. Image credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis.

November 8, 2015: The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster first stage [right] and a Delta IV core stage [left] within the Delta Mariner. The first stage is assigned to the Cygnus mission; the core stage is assigned to a different mission. Image credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis.

November 8, 2015: A truck pulls the first stage of the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V booster to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Image credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis.

November 8, 2015: A truck pulls the first stage of the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V booster to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center near Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Image credit: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis.

November 9, 2015: Technicians loading additional supplies and hardware into the pressurized module during late stowage. Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis.

November 9, 2015: Technicians load in last-minute supplies and hardware during late stowage operations. Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

November 9, 2015: Technicians within the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility high bay load supplies and hardware into the pressurized module of the Cygnus spacecraft during late stowage operations. Image credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

November 11, 2015: The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster being lifted into a vertical position within the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 11, 2015: The United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster lifted into a vertical position within the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 12, 2015: A United Launch Alliance Centaur stage is transported to Launch Complex 41. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November, 12 2015: United Launch Alliance’s Centaur stage mounted on their Atlas V rocket as the launch vehicle for the Cygnus OA-4 spacecraft. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 16, 2015: Engineers prepare to slip the Atlas V payload fairing around the Orbital ATK enhanced Cygnus spacecraft within the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 16, 2015: Engineers encapsulate the Cygnus spacecraft within a protective payload fairing to provide aerodynamic cover during launch. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 16, 2015: Engineers secure the protective payload fairing around the Cygnus spacecraft. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 20, 2015: A transporter carries the Cygnus spacecraft within its payload fairing from the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to Space Launch Complex 41 within NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 20, 2015: A Kamag transporter moves the Cygnus spacecraft into the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 20, 2015: A crane lifts the Cygnus spacecraft into the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 so it can be bolted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 20, 2015: A crane lowers the Cygnus spacecraft onto the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket within the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Engineers will bolt them together. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

November 20, 2015: The Cygnus spacecraft mounted to the top of the Atlas V rocket in preparation for launch. Image credit: United Launch Alliance

[NASA]

Top image: November 20, 2015: A crane lifts the Cygnus spacecraft to the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket within the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Credit: United Launch Alliance


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