Orbital Sciences catches up to SpaceX, becomes second private company to send cargo to ISS
The race to space and huge NASA contracts is becoming more intense now that Orbital Sciences has entered the picture by successfully launching its own cargo vessel up to the International Space Station.
Not too long ago, SpaceX became the first private company to successfully launch its own cargo vessel to the International Space Station (ISS), but its role as the only commercially viable child of NASA has come to an end now that Orbital Sciences has also successfully launched their own cargo vessel.
At approximately 10:58 Eastern Time, Orbital Sciences launched its two stage Antares rocket, and if the mission is successful the attached Cygnus spacecraft will rendezvous with the ISS on Sunday, September 22. Inside the cargo vessel are 1300lbs worth of scientific equipment, supplies and other goodies like chocolate for the astronauts to munch on as they conduct their experiments and enjoy the grand view of Earth.
NASA has been on the lookout for possible replacements to its space shuttle program ever since the final shuttle mission landed in August, 2011. Since then, private companies like Sierra Nevada Corporation, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Boeing have all vied for contract money to develop space shuttles and cargo vessels to ferry NASA astronauts and supplies to and back from space.
Currently, NASA is hitching rides on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft at a cost of $63 million per seat. Contracted private companies are expected to begin launching test manned missions around 2015-2016, but as lucrative as the shuttle program is there are still opportunities for companies unlock more NASA contract money via the supply and cargo route.
“Today’s launch of the Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft to ISS is a huge milestone for Orbital Sciences, potentially unlocking $1.9 billion worth of NASA service contracts,” said Hoyt Davidson of Near Earth LLC.
SpaceX is expected to send its third cargo vessel to the ISS in a few months, while Sierra Nevada Corporation is in the process of priming its Dream Chaser spacecraft, hoping to become the first private company to successfully launch a manned mission.
Via Fox news