Friday, January 06, 2012

Orbital continues preps for Cygnus flight this year

Orbital Sciences Corp. this week released images showing technicians working on the command modules of spacecraft being readied to fly cargo to the International Space Station this year.

Orbital says it will update the anticipated timing of those flights early next month when it announces quarterly financial results.

The most recent schedule shows a maiden flight of the company's Antares rocket (formerly called Taurus II) in the first quarter of this year, followed by a Cygnus demonstration flight to the International Space Station in the next quarter.

However, work continues to ready a new launch pad for the missions at Wallops Island, Virginia.

In this image, the Cygnus service module on the left is the one slated to fly the demonstration flight. The one on the right will fly the first of eight cargo resupply missions contracted by NASA.

NASA's other commercial cargo partner, SpaceX, is preparing for a Feb. 7 launch from Cape Canaveral of its Dragon spacecraft to the space station. If the demonstration is successful, the first commercial resupply mission could follow within a few months.

IMAGE: At Orbital's Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Dulles, Va., two service modules are being integrated and assembled in a class 100,000 clean room prior to the beginning of environmental testing, the last major phase of the spacecraft development and testing prior to shipment to the Wallops Island, Va. launch site, where it will be integrated with the Pressurized Cargo Module that was delivered in 2011. The banner seen on the wall above the Cygnus service modules is a full-scale depiction of the complete Cygnus system with its solar arrays deployed. Credit: Orbital.

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