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July 13th, 2014

Thales Alenia Space + Orbital Sciences' Cygnus™ Send Supplies Soaring With A Wallop Of A Launch (Launch Updates)

[SatNews] Earth bound folks take a trip to the store to replenish their supplies, but when you're on the International Space Station, that's an entirely different matter...

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket launches from Pad-0A with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, Sunday, July 13, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus spacecraft is filled with over 3,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station, including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions. The Orbital-2 mission is Orbital Sciences' second contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The third of nine Cygnus™ resupply vehicles for the International Space Station has been successfully launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia, by Orbital's Antares rocket. It carried a Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) developed by Thales Alenia Space for Orbital Sciences Corporation, used to transport crew supplies, spare parts and scientific experiments to the International Space Station.

“Today’s mission was the fourth successful launch of Antares in the past 15 months and the third deployment of Cygnus in less than a year,” said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  “So far, our second operational CRS mission is off to a great start with Cygnus operating exactly as anticipated at this early stage of the mission.  We are very pleased to be a reliable partner with NASA to meet their need for reliable, regularly scheduled cargo resupply for the ISS.  I salute the combined NASA and Orbital team for its hard work to get us to this point, and look forward to completing another safe and successful mission for our NASA customer.”

The Pressurized Cargo Module was shipped from Thales Alenia Space’s Turin plant in January to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, where Orbital integrated it with the Service Module to form the Cygnus transport vehicle.

After less than four days in orbit, the Cygnus spacecraft will be captured by the Space Station’s robotic arm and mated to the Nadir port of Node 2, also built by Thales Alenia Space. The Cygnus spacecraft will be docked to the ISS for about 30 days, allowing it to transfer about 3,669 pounds (1,664 kilograms) of cargo. It will then be loaded with waste materials, detached from the Space Station and burn up during its atmospheric reentry. The mission is the company's second cargo delivery flight to the station through a $1.9 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. Orbital will fly at least eight cargo missions to the space station through 2016. Under the CRS contract with NASA, Orbital will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver approximately 44,000 pounds (20,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over eight missions through 2016.  For these missions, NASA will manifest a variety of essential items based on ISS program needs, including food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments.

Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA, with help from Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, will use the station's robotic arm to take hold of Cygnus at 6:39 a.m. Wednesday, July 16. In August, the capsule, which will be filled with trash, will depart the station and burn up during reentry in Earth’s atmosphere. The entire mission will be supported in real time by a joint Thales Alenia Space and Altec team housed in Altec’s Mission Support Complex in Turin.

Thales Alenia Space, in partnership with Orbital Sciences Corporation, will deliver a total of nine Pressurized Cargo Modules for the Cygnus spacecraft under the Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) contract signed by Orbital with NASA as part of the cargo transport service commercialization initiative. There will be four standard modules, capable of transporting up to 2,000 kg of cargo, and five enhanced units, with capacity increased to 2,700 kg.

The PCMs for Cygnus reflect the expertise built up by Thales Alenia Space over the last 30 years in similar programs, including the MPLM (Multi-Purpose Logistics Module) mini-fleet, built under Italian space agency contract, and the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) cargo carriers, built by Thales Alenia Space for the European Space Agency.

Thales Alenia Space plays a lead role in the construction of the International Space Station. It has proven to be an outstanding partner, taking responsibility for the design and construction of a substantial part of the pressurized modules (housing the astronauts) at its Turin plant. Thales Alenia Space will leverage these capabilities and experience to maintain its leadership in the increasingly commercial space market.

Thales Alenia Space is a European joint venture between Thales (67 percent) and Finmeccanica (33 percent) in space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration and orbital infrastructures. Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio form the two parent companies' “Space Alliance”, providing a complete range of services and solutions in dual (civil/military) missions, constellations, flexible payloads, altimetry, meteorology and high-resolution optical and radar instruments. The company posted consolidated revenues in excess of 2 billion euros in 2013, and has 7,500 employees in six countries. You can learn more here.

It Takes A Team To Succeed...

ATK (NYSE: ATK) provided the second stage motor for Sunday's successful launch of Orbital Sciences Corporation's (NYSE:ORB) Antares™ rocket on its second NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Liftoff occurred at 12:52 p.m. EDT from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. The ATK motor was a CASTOR 30B, which was upgraded from the CASTOR 30 that boosted two prior Antares missions to the ISS.

"ATK's CASTOR 30B motor provided the additional thrust needed to deliver more cargo to the ISS crew," said Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager of ATK Aerospace Group's Defense and Commercial division. "This advanced solid rocket motor is a great example of how we can provide innovation to our customers to help them meet their emerging needs."

The CASTOR 30B motor was developed to increase the payload capability for the Antares vehicle. The 30B motor is longer, has a reduced internal insulation thickness and provides 25 percent more thrust. Designed as an upper stage, it can function as a second or third stage depending on the vehicle configuration.

On future launches, the CASTOR 30/30B motors will be replaced with a CASTOR 30XL, which will enable Antares to carry even more cargo.

This launch was the second of eight Antares cargo delivery missions to the ISS under Orbital's CRS contract.   Orbital is under contract to deliver up to 20,000 kilograms of food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments to the ISS.

ATK is an aerospace, defense and commercial products company with operations in 22 states, Puerto Rico and internationally. News and information can be found here.