Artist rendering of Cygnus spacecraft approaching the International Space Station. Image Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation Just 100 miles up the coast from where the Wright brothers first flew their airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orbital launches its new COTS system at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Founded in 1982, Orbital’s COTS system design is based on the new Antares rocket with a liquid oxygen (LOX)/kerosene (RP-1) first stage powered by two Aerojet AJ-26 engines. The Antares second stage uses ATK’s Castor 30 solid-propellant motor derived from its flight-proven Castor 120. The spacecraft, known as Cygnus, is derived from Orbital’s heritage DAWN and STAR projects and ISS cargo carriers.
Cygnus approaches the station and is grappled by the crew using the station’s robotic arm. It is then installed on the bottom side of the station’s Harmony node. After delivering cargo to ISS, Cygnus destructively reenters Earth’s atmosphere.
Both Orbital Sciences and SpaceX took part in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program. Under COTS, NASA is helping commercial partners develop and demonstrate their own cargo space transportation capabilities to serve the U.S. Government and other potential customers. The companies lead and direct their own efforts, with NASA providing technical and financial assistance.
|First launch to ISS||September 2013|
|Launch site||Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia|
|Launch vehicle||Antares rocket|
|Length||5.1 m (16.7 ft)|
|Diameter||3.05 m (10 ft)|
|Cargo mass||1,700 kg (3,748 lb)|
|Pressurized volume||18.75 m3 (662.2 ft3)|
|Length on orbit||30 days|
|Docking method/location||Captured by the station’s robot arm/U.S. segment|
|Return method||Destructive reentry|