The AP reported yesterday that the Orbital Sciences Corporation successfully launched a rocket from the eastern shore of Virginia. The occasion was marked, as most occasions are, by a tweet:
— Orbital Sciences (@OrbitalSciences) September 18, 2013
OSC's Cygnus capsule is bound for NASA's International Space Station with 1300 pounds of food, clothes, and other goodies including a chocolate stash for astronaut Karen Nyberg.
Following some tests, Cygnus will be expected to dock with the ISS on Sunday. NASA's associate administrator Robert Lightfoot said of the occasion that "If you needed more tangible proof that this is a new era of exploration, it's right here, right now in Virginia."
David W. Thompson, the president and CEO of OSC, said "We are very pleased with the early operations of the COTS demonstration mission... The Cygnus spacecraft appears to be fully healthy and operating as expected during this early phase of its mission... There is clearly still a lot of work in front of us, but the mission looks like it is off to a great start."
The successful launch makes OSC the second business to ship goods into space by rocket. Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, has been delivering supplies to NASA under contract for over a year now. SpaceX bases their launches out of California.
After about 30 days of being attached to the ISS, Cygnus will be filled with refuse and sent to break up upon reentry to the atmosphere, as all Russian, Japanese, and European supply craft end up -- trash bins for astronauts. The executive vice-president of OSC, Frank Culbertson, said of the process that "We categorize it as disposable cargo... Others may call it trash."
This first mission is just a test; if all goes as planned, a second Cygnus capsule will be launched in December. The second launch would be the first operational mission under OSC's $1.9 billion contract with NASA.
If you want to check out OSC's press release regarding the launch, it's located here.[Image via a YouTube video of a previous launch by Orbital Sciences]