Orbital Gets NASA OK for Commercial Cargo Delivery Flight

The open hatch to the Cygnus freighter. (Credit: NASA)
The open hatch to the Cygnus freighter. (Credit: NASA)

International Space Station (ISS) astronauts opened the hatch to the newly arrived Cygnus freighter on Monday and began unloading cargo as NASA officials gave Orbital Sciences Corporation permission to proceed with a commercial cargo delivery flight in two month’s time.

“They are good to go,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, program manager for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. “The station has a spot ready for them in December. We’re getting the cargo ready to ship out. They’ve demonstrated a system that certainly can deliver. There will be no delays in proceeding toward the next mission.”

NASA and Orbital officials are extremely pleased with the Cygnus mission thus far. The flight was marred by a computer glitch that delayed the ship’s arrival at ISS; otherwise, the new freighter has performed exactly as expected.

The flight was a COTS demonstration mission to prove Cygnus could deliver cargo to ISS. Cygnus will stay docked to the space station until Oct. 22 when it will depart with space station garbage and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Barring any problems with Cygnus during the next three weeks, the December flight will mark the first Cygnus deliver under Orbital’s $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. The company will fly eight missions under the agreement.