New Private Spacecraft Set For Mission To Resupply Space Station
An artist’s rendering of the Cygnus spacecraft approaching the International Space Station. Orbital Sciences
The SpaceX Dragon may have gotten there first, but Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft is set to become the second private robotic ship to dock with the International Space Station after a Wednesday launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The launch is scheduled for 10:50 a.m. EDT on Wednesday from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops.
“Orbital Sciences’ vehicle will fly into space atop the company’s Antares rocket, which is … about the size of a 13-story building, standing 131.5 feet (40 meters) tall. The two AJ26 engines used in the rocket’s first stage are based on the NK-33 engine, which was originally developed to launch Russia’s giant N-1 moon rocket — the Soviet answer to America’s famous Saturn V — in the 1960s. However, the Soviet heavy-lifter was never launched successfully.”
Orbital Sciences is contracted for eight cargo missions to the ISS under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA.
In May 2012, SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, launched the Dragon on its first successful resupply mission to the ISS and in March of this year, a second robotic Dragon delivered 1,200 pounds of supplies to astronauts.