Orbital Sciences Completes Flight to International Space Station
OSC’s Cygnus unloads cargo at International Space Station, in the hopes of turning over more routine duties to the private sector while NASA chases deep space.
Bloomberg (9/29, Idzelis) reported that Orbital Sciences Corporation completed its first attempt to fly its unmanned Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. It landed at 8:45 AM EDT on Sunday, September 29. “The successful mission means Orbital can now start making regular cargo deliveries under its $1.9 billion NASA contract. NASA is counting on private companies such as Orbital and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to resupply the space station” after retiring the shuttle fleet in 2011.
Forbes (9/ 29) Knapp also reported on the event, describing a week’s delay in the schedule docking. The delay was attributed to a software glitch. The resupply craft is carrying 1300 pounds of cargo, including supplies, science experiments, and “and perhaps most important, chocolate for the astronauts.” Cygnus is scheduled to return to earth in about 30 days, carrying refuse and waste from the station, in a destructive re-entry. “Orbital will be sending another Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station in mid-December, likely before Christmas. The company expects to send up the remaining cargo deliveries in its contract every 3 to 6 months.”
According to NASA (9/29), the craft was launched from Wallop’s Island, Virginia on September 18 aboard an Antares rocket. According to NASA, this was the first flight from Virginia to the space station. “European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg captured Cygnus with the station's robotic arm, then attached the capsule on the bottom of the station's Harmony node, completing installation by bolting the Cygnus to Harmony.”
NASA: Obama Pleased. According to a release from NASA (9/29), Assistant to the President for Science and Technology John P. Holdren said "This mission is exactly what the President had in mind when he laid out a fresh course for NASA to take Americans deeper into our solar system while relying on private-sector competition to lower the cost of ferrying astronauts and cargo to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. It’s essential we maintain competition and fully support this burgeoning and capable industry to get U.S. astronauts back on American launch vehicles as soon as possible.”