Private spacecraft Cygnus launches to ISS

2013-09-18 20:35
The Orbital Sciences cargo ship Cygnus launches from Nasa's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (Bill Ingalls, AP/NASA)

The Orbital Sciences cargo ship Cygnus launches from Nasa's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (Bill Ingalls, AP/NASA)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Orbital Sciences launched the first flight of its unmanned Cygnus cargo ship on Wednesday to the International Space Station, as Nasa forges ahead with its plan to privatize US space missions.

The Cygnus capsule, hitched to Orbital Science's Antares rocket, blasted off at 10:58 (14:58 GMT) from Nasa's Wallops Flight Facility off Virginia's eastern coast, for a Sunday rendezvous with the ISS.

Cygnus separated from the rocket's second stage about 10 minutes after blast-off to reach Earth's orbit, marking the success of the launch. It later deployed both of its solar arrays, which will supply power to the spacecraft.

The payload separation was successful, a Nasa commentator said on the US space agency's live television feed. Clapping could be heard at mission control.

"That was just a beautiful launch," a Nasa commentator said.

"All going very smoothly with the continuing health of the spacecraft."

Cygnus will ferry about 590kg of food, clothing and other cargo for the crew aboard the space station, which it is scheduled to reach at 11:30 GMT Sunday.

The spacecraft, which was orbiting Earth at a speed of 28 160km/h, will remain docked at the ISS for a month.

"Today marks a milestone in our new era of exploration as we expand the capability for making cargo launches to the International Space Station from American shores," Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

"Orbital's extraordinary efforts are helping us fulfil the promise of American innovation to maintain our nation's leadership in space."

Cygnus contains two basic components: the Service Module, produced by Orbital Sciences, and the Pressurized Cargo Module made by an affiliate of French group Thales and Italy's Finmeccanica.

Eight flights

Orbital Sciences has a $1.9bn contract with Nasa that requires the company to deliver freight to the ISS over the course of eight flights by the beginning of 2016.

The company is one of just two private US firms enlisted by Nasa to carry payloads to the ISS. The other is California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX.

Nasa is eager to give private industry the job of carrying cargo and crews, in hopes of cutting costs, now that its space shuttle fleet has been retired.

The US space agency plans to focus its attention on deep-space missions to land probes on asteroids and Mars.

Wednesday's demonstration flight - the first to the ISS by Virginia-based Orbital Sciences - is meant to show that Cygnus can successfully deliver cargo to the space station.

If the test is successful, it could lead to regularly scheduled missions within months. Another Cygnus capsule is set to launch in December.

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

"Everyone involved should be extremely proud, and we are looking forward to a successful series of checkouts between now and when Cygnus reaches the space station this weekend."

Orbital first launched its Antares rocket, carrying a dummy payload, on a successful trial flight in April.

Cygnus's docking with the ISS will mark the fourth of a private vessel to the orbiting outpost.

The first was SpaceX's Dragon capsule in May 2012. Dragon later made two more trips to deliver cargo to the ISS.

Unlike the Dragon capsule, Cygnus cannot return to Earth and will be destroyed upon re-entry after its mission is complete.

Read more on:    nasa  |  iss  |  us  |  space

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.