Orbital Would Put Additional COTS Funding Toward Testing, Extra Test Flight

Orbital Would Use COTS Boost To Augment Taurus 2 Testing
Space News

If Congress approves NASA’s plan to add $300 million to its 2011 budget to develop commercial cargo delivery systems for the international space station, Orbital Sciences Corp. likely would use its share of the funding to augment ground testing of its planned medium-lift Taurus 2 rocket and possibly conduct an additional test flight of the vehicle, according to David W. Thompson, Orbital’s chairman and chief executive.

Orbital is slated to conduct a single demonstration flight of its Taurus 2 rocket and Cygnus cargo capsule next spring under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The company would then fly eight cargo-delivery missions to the space station through 2015 under a separate $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The additional test flight would loft an instrumented test payload rather than the Cygnus module, Thompson said. The test package “would better define the physical environment for the payload and prove out the rocket before we go all the way” to the space station, he added.

Although no firm plans will be made until the budget is approved, Orbital has evaluated how any COTS budget increase could be used to reduce program risk and accelerate program milestones.

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