DULLES, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that it is in final preparations to launch the company’s Antares™ rocket carrying its Cygnus™ cargo spacecraft destined for the International Space Station (ISS). Pending completion of final vehicle testing and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch will take place on Wednesday, January 8, with lift-off scheduled for 1:32 p.m. EST, and will originate from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia. The Antares medium-class rocket will boost the Cygnus spacecraft into a targeted orbit of approximately 130 x 185 miles (210 x 298 kilometers) above the Earth, inclined at 51.6 degrees to the equator. Following in-orbit activation and testing after launch, Cygnus is slated to rendezvous and berth with the Space Station in the early morning hours on Sunday, January 12. Live coverage of the cargo supply mission will be available on NASA Television and at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.
“Orbital conducted a very successful demonstration mission of the Antares/Cygnus system last September, proving that the company can reliably carry out regularly scheduled operational missions to the ISS for NASA,” said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Now our team is focused on executing another flawless launch and in-orbit operation to deliver much-needed supplies to the astronaut crew on board the Space Station.”
Under a $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA, Orbital will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver up to 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over eight missions through late 2016. For these missions, NASA will manifest a variety of essential items based on ISS program needs, including food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments.
For the first CRS mission, the Cygnus spacecraft is carrying 2,780 pounds (1,260 kilograms) of supplies to the Space Station, including science experiments to expand the research capability of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory, along with crew provisions, spare parts and experiment hardware. Also aboard the flight are 23 student experiments that will involve more than 8,600 elementary, junior high and high school students from the United States and Canada. These experiments address life sciences topics ranging from vaccine effectiveness and amoeba reproduction to calcium loss in bones and liquid behavior in space. This mission, together with future Cygnus flights, will ensure a robust national capability to deliver critical research equipment and samples to orbit, significantly increasing NASA's ability to conduct new scientific investigations in the only laboratory in microgravity.
Orbital privately developed the Antares launch vehicle to provide low-cost, reliable access to space for medium-class payloads. It is the largest and most complex rocket the company has ever produced. Under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) joint research and development initiative with NASA, Orbital also developed the Cygnus spacecraft, which is an advanced maneuvering vehicle that meets the stringent human-rated safety requirements for ISS operations. Together, these products showcase Orbital’s ability to apply rigorous engineering approaches and commercial business practices to significantly shorten development timelines and lower operational costs of sophisticated space systems as compared to traditional government-run programs.
The Antares medium-class launch vehicle represents a major increase in the payload launch capability that Orbital can provide to NASA, the U.S. Air Force and commercial customers. The Antares rocket launches spacecraft weighing up to 14,000 pounds (6,400 kilograms) into low-Earth orbit, as well as lighter-weight payloads into higher-energy orbits. Orbital’s newest launcher is currently on-ramped to both the NASA Launch Services-2 and the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 contracts, enabling the two largest U.S. government space launch customers to order Antares for “right-size and right-price” launch services for medium-class spacecraft. For more information on Antares, visit http://www.orbital.com/SpaceLaunch/Antares/.
The Cygnus spacecraft consists of a common Service Module (SM) and a Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM). The SM incorporates avionics, power and propulsion systems already successfully flown aboard dozens of Orbital’s LEOStar™ and GEOStar™ satellite products. The PCM, designed and built by Thales Alenia Space under a subcontract from Orbital, is based on the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) used with the Space Shuttle. For more information on Cygnus, visit http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/Publications/Cygnus_fact.pdf.
Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories. More information about Orbital can be found at http://www.orbital.com. Follow the company on Twitter @OrbitalSciences.