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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid