ISS Cargo Delivery Flight Schedules Slide to the Right

Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station. (Credit: OSC)

SpaceX’s and Orbital Sciences Corporation’s schedules for COTS flights are sliding into 2012, according to an internal NASA manifest quoted by Space News:

Launches of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus 2 and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 rockets, which until recently were scheduled for this year, are now expected to push into January and February, respectively, according to an internal NASA manifest. A second Taurus 2 flight, this one carrying Orbital’s Cygnus cargo module for the first time, is still officially scheduled for February, but the NASA manifest indicates a May launch date.

Both the Falcon 9 and Taurus 2, developed with funding assistance from NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, are expected to begin making regular cargo runs to the space station starting in 2012. But the rockets and their associated cargo capsules first must successfully complete a series of COTS flight demonstrations intended to convince NASA and its space station partners that the new vehicles can safely do the job.


Orbital Receives Commercial Launch License for Taurus II

(OSC PR – Dulles, VA – 31 August 2011) — Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that it received a Commercial Space Transportation Launch License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program demonstration mission in early 2012. An expanded license covering the test flight of the company’s Taurus® II rocket in late 2011 is expected to be granted in the near future.

To secure the license, Orbital was required to submit extensive technical and program management data to the FAA about its Taurus II rocket and Cygnus™ spacecraft to ensure that all necessary operational requirements and safety precautions are met. Among the many items reviewed by the FAA were the rocket’s planned trajectory, ground tracking procedures, onboard safety and flight termination systems, and the experience and training of the launch operations team.


Italian Cygnus Module Arrives in America on Russian-Built Plane

…for launch aboard an American/Russian/Ukrainian rocket.

Space: it’s not just intergalactic, anymore. It’s international!

(OSC PR — Dulles, VA 25 August 2011) – Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that the first pressurized cargo module (PCM) for its Cygnus™ cargo logistics spacecraft has arrived at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.


Cygnus Freighter to Arrive at Wallops on Wednesday

NASA PR — WASHINGTON — NASA’s partnership with industry to develop transportation to the International Space Station reaches another milestone on Wednesday, Aug. 24. The cargo module for Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus spacecraft, which will carry supplies to the station, is scheduled to arrive at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 4 p.m. EDT.

During the next several months, Orbital’s engineering team will integrate the PCM with the Cygnus service module that includes the spacecraft’s avionics, propulsion and power systems.

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled for a demonstration flight early next year on an Orbital Taurus II launch vehicle under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services agreement with the company. Cygnus will launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A at Wallops. For information about the spacecraft, visit:

For information about NASA’s commercial space transportation efforts, visit:

Cool Pics: SpaceX’s Dragon in Prep for First ISS Flight

Some cool images courtesy of SpaceX. Above, technicians prepare the Dragon spacecraft for thermal vacuum chamber testing in a SpaceX clean room shown above in Hawthorne (Los Angeles) California. The open bays will hold the parachutes. NASA has given SpaceX a launch date of Nov 30, 2011 for Falcon 9 Flight 3, which will send a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.


SpaceX, OSC on Track for COTS Flights By End of Year

Illustration of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft arriving at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
December is going to be a busy month for NASA’s COTS program.  If all goes well, a SpaceX Dragon will be berthed with the International Space Station (ISS) on Dec. 9.  Also in December, Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Taurus II rocket will soar into space from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia.

If the flights are successful, they will pave the way for commercial cargo delivery delivery to ISS during the first quarter of next year by Dragon and OSC’s Cygnus freighter.


NewSpace 2011: Orbital Spaceflight and Beyond

A Boeing CST-100 crew module docks at a Bigelow Aerospace space station. (Credit: Boeing)


  • Dennis Stone: Manager, Program Integration, NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program


  • Brent Jett — Deputy Manager, NASA CCDev (JSC)
  • Garrett Reisman — Project Manager for CCDev 2, SpaceX
  • Mark Sirangelo — Chairman, Sierra Nevada Space Systems
  • Gerard Szatkowski — SmallSat Project Manager, United Launch Alliance


Canadian Technology to Guide New Cygnus Freighter

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

NEPTEC PR – OTTAWA, ON – Neptec Design Group, a leader in space, defence and industrial systems and applications, today announced it will provide its TriDAR rendezvous and docking sensors to Orbital Space Science Corp.’s Cygnus Spacecraft capsule, which will be used on the Cargo Resupply Services Program to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Fresh off three successful test missions with the Space Shuttle, including the historic final flight STS-135, this partnership will see Neptec supply Orbital with 13 TriDAR systems to support Orbital’s initial round of resupply flights for the ISS.


NASA to Allow SpaceX to Combine Flights to ISS

Illustration of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft arriving at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Aviation Week
reports that NASA had preliminarily agreed to let SpaceX combine two Dragon test flights to the International Space Station:

With the STS-135 space shuttle supply mission to the International Space Station drawing to a close, agency officials are honing plans for a late November launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon on the first U.S. commercial cargo delivery mission to the orbiting science laboratory, NASA ISS program manager Mike Suffredini says.

Agency and company officials reached agreement on planning dates of Nov. 30 for the launch and Dec. 7 for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the station during a July 15 meeting.


Bolden Witnesses AJ26 Test Firing

AJ26 Engine NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (left) and Stennis Space Center Director Patrick Scheuermann view a test firing of the first Aerojet AJ26 flight engine. Once flight acceptance is achieved, the engine will power the first stage of Orbital’s Taurus II space launch vehicle on commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station. NASA has partnered with Orbital to provide eight cargo missions to the space station, with the first scheduled for early 2012. Image Credit: NASA/Danny Nowlin

Taurus II Engine Tests Coming Along Nicely

Aerojet's AJ26 engine successfully tested for Taurus II space launch vehicle. (PRNewsFoto/Aerojet)


You see a lot of smiles around the E-1 Test Stand at John C. Stennis Space Center these days. Engineers involved in testing Aerojet’s AJ26 rocket engine for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II space launch vehicle have good reason to smile.


SpaceX Plans At Least 32 Launches Through 2015

Dragon floats down under three parachutes after its maiden flight to space. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has a busy schedule ahead for its Falcon 1e and Falcon 9 rockets, with at least 32 launches scheduled through 2015. The highlights:

  • At least 23 Falcon 9 launches
  • 14 Falcon 9/Dragon COTS flights for NASA (including 2 demo missions)
  • At least 8 Falcon 9 satellite launches
  • Multiple Falcon 9 launches for Iridium (2015-17)
  • 1 Bigelow space station module launch (2014)
  • Inaugural Falcon9/DragonLab mission (2012)
  • First Falcon 9 flight from Vandenberg (2012)
  • Debut of the uprated Falcon 1e rocket (2011)
  • Approximately 9 Falcon 1e launches
  • Approximately 6 Falcon 1e flights for ORBCOMM (2011-14).


SpaceX, Orbital Sciences See Increase in NASA COTS Funding

NASA Has Boosted COTS Funding by Additional $40 Million Since October
Space News

NASA has boosted its investment in two logistics services being developed for the international space station by $40 million so far this year, and plans to double that payout by the end of March despite the fact that Congress has yet to appropriate the necessary funds for the effort, according to an agency official.


Bolden Mourns End of Shuttle Program, Looks Forward to Commercial Future

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden spoke at the AIAA New Horizons Forum in Orlando on Wednesday. His talk focused largely on the successes of the space shuttle program that is set to end later this year. He also  touch upon three topics that will impact NASA’s future: commercial crew and cargo delivery to the International Space Station, the development of a heavy-lift vehicle, and the additional of an extra space shuttle flight.

I’ve excerpted four relevant passages from the speech. The full address follows after the excerpt.

As we move toward a true commercial capability for reaching low Earth orbit, it seems people are yearning even more for routine access to space – one of the unfilled promises of the original space transportation system. With greater commercial access to LEO, we’re going to open up an entirely new segment of the economy and with this will come new high tech jobs. I hope we can all agree – as a nation, we’re ready for that. We know we can do it; in part because of all that we have learned from shuttle, and the fact that we have flown more than 130 missions to space – more than any other NASA human spaceflight program.


Bolden: Third Shuttle Flight Would Be Safe

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

After months of relative silence, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden re-emerged this week to talk about the space agency’s future. Speaking at an AIAA conference in Orlando, Bolden discussed the upcoming space shuttle schedule and his aim to ensure that NASA’s is undertaking realistic missions in a sustainable way.

Florida Today reports that an additional shuttle mission to supplement the final two ones of the books is on the agenda, despite uncertainty in the space agency’s funding levels caused by Congress’ failure to approve the FY2011 budget:

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden today reiterated a commitment to fly a third shuttle mission this year and said the agency has determined the mission would be safe.

The 2010 NASA Authorization Act requests the flight pending an assessment of its safety, which Bolden said is not yet final. Since no rescue shuttle would be available, the mission dubbed STS-135 would rely in Soyuz spacecraft to gradually return crew members from the International Space Station.