Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Orbital Sciences launches new cargo ship to space station

NASA commercial space partner Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., successfully launched a Cygnus cargo ship aboard its new Antares rocket at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the Mid-AtlanticRegional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

This is the first time a spacecraft launched from Virginia is blazing a trail toward the International Space Station (ISS).

Traveling 17,500 miles per hour in Earth's orbit, Cygnus is on its way to rendezvous with the ISS on Sunday. The spacecraft will deliver about 1,300 pounds of cargo, including food and clothing, to the Expedition 37 crew aboard the space station. The crew will grapple and attach the capsule using the station's robotic arm.

Wednesday's launch was a test flight for the
Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program. The successful completion of the COTS demonstration mission will pave the way for Orbital to conduct eight planned cargo resupply flights to the space station through NASA's $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with the company. NASA's other cargo resupply provider, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., began flying regular cargo missions to the space station in 2012, following its own COTS demonstration mission.

"Today's launch is the culmination of more than five years' work between the NASA and Orbital teams," said Alan Lindenmoyer, NASA's program manager for commercial crew and cargo.

Over the next several days, Cygnus will perform a series of maneuvers to test and prove its systems are working properly.

The ISS crew is scheduled to capture Cygnus with a robot arm at
7:25 a.m. EDT on Sunday.

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