Cygnus docks at ISS while SpaceX tests improved rocket

30 September 2013
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
Orbital Sciences' cargo ship Cygnus has become the second private spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station

Orbital Sciences' cargo ship Cygnus has become the second private spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station [Credit: Orbital Sciences]

Orbital Sciences’ commercial cargo vessel Cygnus has docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, completing the primary goal of its test flight.

Cygnus’s arrival was delayed by a week first due to a software glitch and then because of a priority arrival of a manned Soyuz spacecraft bringing a new crew to the ISS.

Finally, before 11am on Sunday, the spacecraft parked some 12m from the station, before Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and his American counterpart Karen Nyberg grabbed it with the station’s robotic arm and connected it to the berthing point of the Harmony module.

Cygnus is part of Nasa’s Commercial Space Development Program. The agency awarded Orbital Sciences some £178m to develop the capsule and the Antares rocket. With the test flight achieving the major milestone, Cygnus is set to conduct its first paid cargo delivery mission to the ISS in the upcoming months, with the first commercial launch attempt scheduled for December.

Nasa will pay Orbital Sciences $1.9bn for eight resupply missions.

The capsule delivered more than 680kg of food, clothing and supplies to the station. Before its departure, the spacecraft will be filled with trash and sent to burn in the Earth’s atmosphere.

European defence company Thales Alenia Space has worked as a primary contractor on the capsule’s development and manufacturing.

At this point, Nasa is Orbital Sciences’ only customer, however, the company believes it will be able attract private and governmental clients from all over the world

Orbital Sciences’ competitor SpaceX has already performed two resupply missions to the ISS with its Dragon capsule under a $1.5bn Nasa contract. Unlike Cygnus, Dragon is designed as reusable, not burning in atmosphere during re-entry but returning to the Earth.

This weekend, SpaceX has tested its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket in California before commencing commercial launch services.

The 22-story rocket Falcon 9 soared off a newly refurbished, leased launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Station at 4pm GMT on Sunday.

During the test launch, Falcon 9 delivered to polar orbit a small science and communications satellite Cassiope built by a Canadian company MDA.

The upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 has engines that are 60 per cent more powerful than those of the previous versions. It features longer fuel tanks, new avionics and new software - all designed to boost lift capacity and simplify operations for commercial service.

SpaceX has already signed contracts for more than 50 launches of its Falcon 9 and currently developed Falcon Heavy rockets. Apart from Nasa, its customers include several non-US government agencies and commercial satellite operators.

SpaceX also has two contracts for small US Air Force satellites and is looking to break the monopoly of United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that has been exclusively launching big military satellites.

The company advertises Falcon 9 launch services for $56.5 million. SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said he would like to discount that price by recycling and reusing the Falcon's first stage. Currently, the spent boosters splash down into the ocean and cannot be reused.

To achieve this goal, SpaceX has been developing a Grasshopper concept, enabling to fly a booster back to its launch site.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1606

"Where would Frankenstein and his creative mind fit into today's workplace? Should we fear technological developments or embrace them?"

E&T jobs

  • Manufacturing Development & Deployment Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • Preston, England, Lancashire
    • Negotiable

    Manufacturing Development & Deployment Engineer Would you like to help operate within a multi-disciplined environment working closely with TX, FCAS, JSF, Typhoon, Hawk and other projects to develop, deploy and support new leading edge manufacturing pr

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Information Assurance Practitioner

    BAE Systems
    • England, Cumbria, Barrow-In-Furness
    • Negotiable

    Information Assurance PractitionerWould you like to join a world class defence organisation and develop your skills in Information Assurance? We currently have a vacancy for an Information Assurance Practitioner at our site in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.A

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Consultant Engineer - Information Assurance

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, England, Cumbria
    • Negotiable

    Consultant Engineer - Information AssuranceWould you like to have a strategic influence on the development of Information Assurance (IA) policies for a national nuclear deterrence programme? We currently have a vacancy for a Consultant Engineer - Informat

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Systems Engineer

    National Air Traffic Services
    • Fareham, England, Hampshire
    • Negotiable

    NATS is a leading air navigation services specialist, handling 2.2 million flights in 2013/14, covering the UK and eastern North Atlantic. NATS provides air traffic control from centres at Swanwick, Hampshire and Prestwick, Ayrshire. NATS also provides ai

    • Recruiter: National Air Traffic Services

    Apply for this job

  • Software Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Somerset
    • Negotiable

    Software Engineer Would you like a role which enables you to make a difference to people on the frontline? We currently have a vacancy for a Software Engineer at our site in Yeovil. As a Software Engineer, you will be developing product solutions in Java/

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Software Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Hampshire, Portsmouth
    • Competitive package

    As a Software Engineer, you will be investigating how technology and data can be used to optimise the services we provide to our clients, including the Royal Navy, and will include unique pieces of equipment at the forefront of innovation.

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • IM&T Manager - (Product Management)

    BAE Systems
    • England, Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria
    • Negotiable

    IM&T Manager - (Product Management) We currently have a vacancy for an IM&T Manager - (Product Management) at our site in Barrow. As an IM&T Manager - Product Management you will be working within the planning support group, responsible for a

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Nikon Metrology Europe
    • Tring, Hertfordshire

    Nikon Metrology is looking for an Electronics Engineer to join our Electronics Team based in Tring (UK).

    • Recruiter: Nikon Metrology Europe

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Training Officer / NVQ 3 Assessor

    Premium job

    JTL
    • Norwich, Norfolk
    • Competitive + Pension + Personal BUPA cover

    As a Qualified Electrician, you know what it takes to complete electrical work to exceptional standards of safety and quality.

    • Recruiter: JTL

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Training Officer / NVQ 3 Assessor

    Premium job

    JTL
    • Dorchester, Poole or Bournemouth
    • Circa £29,000

    As a Qualified Electrician, you know what it takes to complete electrical work to exceptional standards of safety and quality.

    • Recruiter: JTL

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T