Orbital Eyes Spring ISS Demo Flight for Cygnus

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Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station.

Artist’s conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station.

Orbital Sciences Corporation is planning two launches of its new Antares booster over the next four months, with the second carrying a Cygnus freighter destined for berthing at the International Space Station:

A successful demonstration flight of Orbital’s two stage Antares rocket from MARS including an inaugural rendezvous of its Cygnus cargo craft with the six-person orbiting science laboratory targeted for April would bring the Dulles, Va., based company’s abbreviated five-year development effort under the COTS initiative to a successful close.

It also would trigger the start of a $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) agreement awarded to Orbital by NASA in late 2008. Orbital would join SpaceX to provide the 15-nation station program with the second U.S. re-supply source envisioned by NASA for the post-space shuttle era when COTS program planning began in 2005.

“We would certainly expect, if we go in April with the demo mission, to carry out at least one CRS mission in 2013, but that is really driven by NASA’s needs and paced by NASA,” Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski says. “Orbital could certainly do two.”

…The workload seemed likely to push a COTS required orbital test flight of the Antares with a Cygnus mass simulator into February 2013, Beneski said. The test flight does not involve a space station rendezvous.

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