Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cygnus to Atlas V

The Orbital Antares explodes just after launch on October 28, 2014. Video source: NASA.

On November 24, Spaceflight Insider published a report claiming that the SpaceX Falcon 9 was the “potential prime 'contender'” to fly the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo vehicle to the International Space Station until Orbital's Antares is certified safe to fly again.

Orbital issued a press release today announcing that in fact it'll be the United Launch Alliance Atlas V that will fly one cargo delivery in the fourth quarter of 2015. To quote from the press release:

Orbital has contracted with United Launch Alliance for an Atlas V launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the fourth quarter of 2015, with an option for a second Atlas V launch in 2016 if needed. The Atlas rocket’s greater lift capacity will allow Cygnus to carry nearly 35% more cargo to the ISS than previously planned for CRS missions in 2015.

Orbital was grounded after its Antares rocket blew up October 28 shortly after launch from Wallops, Virginia. The explosion destroyed the Cygnus Orb-3 delivery vehicle. Some cargo on Orb-3 has been replaced and will fly on the SpaceX Dragon scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral on December 16.

ULA followed with its own press release:

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has signed a contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital) (NYSE: ORB) to launch up to two cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program ...

The first mission is set to lift off in late 2015 aboard an Atlas V 401 vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. If required by Orbital, the second mission would be targeted for 2016.

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