Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Double Your Pleasure

Click the arrow to watch on YouTube the Orbital Sciences Cygnus launch. Video source: NASA.

NASA's commercial cargo fleet doubled today as Orbital Sciences launched its Cygnus vehicle atop its Antares booster from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

As of this writing, the mission has been virtually flawless. According to, Cygnus has completed a seven-minute firing of its main thruster which “sets up the spacecraft for the first of 10 demonstration maneuvers this evening, in which the Cygnus will prove its ability to transition to free drift and abort an approach to the International Space Station.”

The demonstration flight comes sixteen months after SpaceX launched its Dragon demo, but that doesn't mean Orbital took longer.

SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler were awarded the initial commercial cargo contracts in August 2006. SpaceX met its milestones, but Rocketplane Kistler did not so their NASA contract was terminated in October 2007. Orbital Sciences replaced Rocketplane Kistler in February 2008 — eighteen months after SpaceX won its contract. Problems with the Commonwealth of Virginia building the spaceport for Orbital also deserve some blame.

Click the arrow to watch the post-launch press briefing. Video source: NASA.

Media reports:

Associated Press “2nd Private Company Rockets Toward Space Station with Supplies, Cygnus Capsule Holds Goodies”

CNN “New Space Cargo Ship Makes First Flight”

Florida Today “Privately Run Spacecraft En Route to ISS Docking”

Florida Today editorial “Giant Leap for Smarter Government”

Forbes “The Private Space Race Heats Up As Orbital Sciences Sends Cygnus To Space Station”

Huffington Post “Orbital Sciences Rocket Launches Cygnus Spacecraft On Debut Mission To ISS”

Los Angeles Times “Watch Orbital Sciences Launch Capsule to International Space Station ” “Orbital’s Antares Launches Cygnus on Debut Mission to ISS”

NBC News “Cygnus Cargo Ship Flies for First Time, Heading for Space Station”

Reuters “Orbital Sciences' New Cargo Ship Blasts Off for Space Station” “NASA Hails Private Cygnus Spacecraft's 'Picture Perfect' 1st Launch to Station”

Space News “Cygnus on Way to Station, Orbital Sciences on Way to Collecting From NASA”

Washington Post “Successful Launch for Antares Rocket; Cygnus Spacecraft on Way to Space Station”

This is what I think will be the iconic photo for today's historic launch. Image source: NASA.

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