American company Orbital Sciences successfully launched Wednesday its first non-inhabited Cygnus capsule to supply the International Space Station under contract with NASA. Orbital was selected by the U.S. space agency with the Californian company SpaceX to deliver cargo to the ISS. In May 2012, SpaceX was the first private company to dock a ship, Dragon, the company station. She then made two more flights of cargo delivery to the ISS.
Antares, the two-stage rocket carrying Cygnus, was torn from the ground at 14:58 GMT (10:58 local) from the center of Wallops Flight, located on an island near the coast of Virginia (southeast). Cygnus is separated from the second stage of the launcher ten minutes after launch to reach orbit and begin shortly after deploying its two solar arrays. The capsule then began his chase to reach the Space Station 415 km altitude it joins Sunday at 11:30 GMT marking the fourth visit of a private ship to the ISS.
“Maintaining the rule of the United States in space”
“The extraordinary contribution Orbital helps us to realize the potential of American innovation to maintain the primacy of the United States in space,” said the boss after the launch of NASA, Charles Bolden. For this first flight, Cygnus, capable of carrying two tons of cargo, carries 589 pounds of supplies including food and clothing, said Wednesday the space agency. It will remain docked to the ISS thirty days. Cygnus consists of two elements: the pressurized module where freight, built by Thales Alenia Space, a subsidiary of French group Thales and Italy’s Finmeccanica, and the service module. The latter, produced by Orbital Sciences, contains avionics, the electrical generator powered by two solar and orbital propulsion system antennas.
Two of the six astronauts Station crew will use the robotic arm to grasp Cygnus prior to docking. The occupants of the ISS-three Russians, two Americans and one Italian-start the next day to unload the goods. They then charge Cygnus with Station waste. Unlike the SpaceX Dragon capsule, Cygnus can not return to Earth will be destroyed by falling into the atmosphere over the Pacific.
Partnerships with the private sector to reduce costs
NASA bets on partnerships with the private sector to reduce the access to LEO cost. Under a contract of $ 1.9 billion with Orbital Sciences, the firm will deliver twenty tons of cargo to the ISS in eight flights spread until early 2016 the first of which is scheduled for December. SpaceX has a contract of $ 1.6 billion with NASA also carry at least twenty tons of cargo during twelve flights to the ISS, two of which have already been made. She will perform the remaining ten flights by 2015. SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada were also selected by NASA to develop each private vessel capable of transporting people to the ISS. For freight, NASA also uses European vessels automatic ATV, Japanese HTV and Russian Progress which are destroyed after their mission falling into the atmosphere.
Since the end of the space shuttle in 2011, the United States depend on Russian Soyuz to transport their astronauts to the ISS, paying $ 70.7 million headquarters. Wallops base was mainly used until recently to start small suborbital craft and scientific balloons. SpaceX launches Dragon with its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral base in Florida. Orbital Sciences conducts launches of commercial and military satellites. The company employs 3,600 people. Its turnover reached 1.5 billion in 2012.