Orbital Sciences, one of NASA’s two partners participating in the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, announced it is now targeting a mid-September launch window for its demonstration flight to the International Space Station. Orbital will launch its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard the Antares rocket between Sept. 14-19 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. It will spend several days heading toward the International Space Station where it will perform a series of checkout maneuvers, ensuring it can safely enter the keep-out zone of the orbiting complex. After those tests have been passed, Cygnus will proceed for an attempted rendezvous with the space station and will be captured by the crew on board. The rendezvous is targeted for Sept. 22, 2013.
It is a busy time for the Wallops range. NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is scheduled to launch from Sept. 6-10. LADEE is a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.
After successful completion of a COTS demonstration mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through NASA's $1.9 billion CRS contract with the company.
NASA initiatives, such as COTS, are helping to develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. NASA's Commercial Crew Program also is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.