Orbital Plans to Develop Cygnus-Based Crew Capsule
Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. is throwing its hat into NASAâ€™s commercial-crew transport ring with plans to develop a crew capsule based on the companyâ€™s Cygnus cargo module, according to industry sources.
Cygnus and its Taurus 2 medium-class launcher are currently in development with help from $171 million in NASA funding won in February 2008 under the agencyâ€™s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program. NASA in December awarded Orbital a $1.9 billion contract for resupply missions to the international space station…
Beneski said a crew variant of Orbitalâ€™s Cygnus pressurized cargo module capable of carrying three or four astronauts, along with a human-rated version of Taurus 2, could be developed at a cost of $2 billion to $3 billion.
One industry source identified Boeing as a potential partner in the effort, which would involve adding a new liquid-hydrogen second stage to the Taurus 2, giving it the thrust needed to carry around 8 metric tons to the space station. This would accommodate an Apollo-sized capsule based on the Cygnus cargo vehicle design along with a service module.
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