News / Science & Technology

NASA Clears Orbital Sciences for Test Flight to Space Station

FILE - The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it launches from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, April 21, 2013.
FILE - The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is seen as it launches from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, April 21, 2013.
Reuters
NASA on Monday cleared a second commercial company to launch a cargo ship to the International Space Station, with blastoff slated this week from a Virginia spaceport.
 
If successful, Orbital Sciences Corp. would join privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX, in flying supplies to the space station, a $100 billion research complex that orbits about 250 miles (about 400 km) above Earth.
 
Orbital Sciences' two-stage Antares rocket, which made a successful debut flight in April, is scheduled to lift off at 10:50 a.m. EDT (1450 GMT) on Wednesday from the Virginia-owned Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, which operates under a lease agreement with NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.
 
The 133-foot (40.5-meter) tall rocket will be carrying the company's first Cygnus cargo capsule.
 
Like SpaceX's Dragon capsules, which so far have made three flights to the space station, Cygnus is intended to restore a U.S. supply line to the station following the retirement of NASA's space shuttles in 2011.
 
“We have them lined up to use them fairly regularly,” NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini told reporters during a pre-launch press conference.
 
“This is what we said was going to be the fleet to take care of the U.S. segment [of the space station] and we need to have it,” Suffredini said.
 
Russia, Europe and Japan also fly freighters to the station, a partnership of 15 nations.
 
Unlike traditional government contracts, NASA provided $684 million in seed funds as well as technical support to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to develop their rockets, capsules and launch facilities.
 
The firms also hold a combined $3.5 billion in contracts to fly cargo to the station for NASA.
 
SpaceX, which was awarded its development contract in 2006, is preparing to debut an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 rocket later this month.
 
NASA wants SpaceX to have two or three missions under its belt with the new rocket before resuming supply runs to the station, Suffredini said.
 
Orbital Sciences, which began its partnership with NASA 18 months later, stands to collect a final $2.5 million development payment from NASA upon completion of its demonstration flight to the station.
 
If the launch occurs as planned on Wednesday, astronauts aboard the station on Sunday plan to use a robotic crane to pluck the Cygnus capsule from orbit and attach it to a docking port.
 
Unlike Dragon capsules, Cygnus spacecraft are designed to burn up in the atmosphere after they are loaded with trash and depart the station.
 
For its orbital debut, Cygnus will be carrying a half-load of about 1,543 pounds (700 kg) of food and other cargo considered “non-essential” by NASA in case the rocket or spacecraft encounters problems and cannot reach the station.
 
“For a demo flight, we don't typically fill them up,” Suffredini said.
 
Cygnus is expected to remain docked at the station for about a month. Should the mission be successful, Orbital Sciences plans to return to that station in December for the first flight under a $1.9 billion cargo resupply contract with NASA.
 
For now, NASA is the only customer for Cygnus, but Orbital Sciences expects new business as the United States and other countries launch exploration initiatives beyond the space station's orbit.
 
“We think Cygnus has the capability to do a lot more than just deliver cargo to the station,” said Frank Culbertson, a former astronaut who now serves as Orbital Science's executive vice president.
 
Thales Alenia Space, a consortium led by Europe's largest defense electronics company, France's Thales, is a prime contractor on the capsule.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs