Orbital Launches Second Paid Cargo Flight to Space


Wallops Island, VA – Today, July 13, Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital) successfully launched its second commercial cargo flight to the International Space Station (ISS).  The Orb-2 flight is taking 1650 kilograms of cargo to the station, including 350 kilograms of science experiments and 32 cubesats.  

 The Orb-2 launch took place at 12:52 PM ET from Pad 01A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), operated by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.  Orbital’s Antare's two stage launch vehicle took 10 minutes to place the Cygnus spacecraft into its preliminary orbit at around 200 kilometers above the earth. 

Source: Doug Mohney

It will take three days time for the Cygnus SS Janet Voss, named for a former Orbital employee and NASA astronaut, to catch up with the space station, with capture and berthing expected early on Wednesday morning.   The spacecraft is expected to spend 30 to 40 days attached to station as it is unloaded of supplies and then filled with “disposable cargo” – trash.  At the end of the mission, the Cygnus will be released from station and destructively re-enter to dispose of all the trash.

On the cargo manifest are a whopping 32 cubesats, including a “flock” of 28 Planet Labs Dove imaging cubesats to be deployed from the space station.  Each Dove is 30 centimeters by 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters in size, packing a camera and telescope capable of taking pictures with resolution of 3 to 5 meters, plus an X-band radio able to download images at up to 75 Mbps. 

The latest flock will join 39 other cubesats in orbit, giving Planet Labs a total of 71 satellites in orbit. Once deployment is complete, the company will have one of the largest constellations in orbit, and the largest single imaging constellation in operation by any private or governmental organization.

Orb-2 was originally scheduled for launch in May, but an engine being tested for a 2015 flight blew up on the stand. The event triggered a lengthy review of the Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 engine used in the Orbital Antares first stage.  Two AJ-26 engines, consuming liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene, drive Antares upward during the first 235 seconds of flight.

Today marks the fourth successful flight of the Antares from Wallops and the third of the Cygnus spacecraft.    Under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) contract, Orbital is contracted to provide a l of 8 flights through 2015, but NASA is reportedlylooking at extensions both in terms of time and adding more flights.  Orbital plans to fly another CRS mission this year around October and three in 2015.

NASA officials emphasized the need for regular supply mission to ISS in briefings this week. Only yesterday the station passed 5,000 days of continuous manning.   Commercial supply services by Orbital from Wallops Island, VA and SpaceX from Cape Canaveral, FL delivery a steady flow of consumables and experiments to the $100 billion space station. 

Edited by Adam Brandt

Contributing Editor

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