Science & Astronomy
18. September 2013

Okay, if I write something about the LADEE launch, I also have to mention the other launch from NASA Wallops which has just happened today: Orbital Sciences has launched their first demonstration flight of their Cygnus freighter on top of an Antares rocket to the International Space Station!

So why is this so interesting? First, because Orbital Sciences is the only one of two commercial spaceflight companies who were awarded contracts from NASA to supply the ISS in the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program – the other one is of course Space X, who are already regularly flying to the ISS with their own Dragon transporter. Secondly, because it is the very first launch from Wallops to the space station – Space X is launching from Cape Canaveral, but Orbital Sciences has their launchport at Wallops. The first test launch with a dummy payload was in April, but now the “real thing” is on its way to the ISS, opening another cargo route to space. I think the Wallops facility can now really be called a spaceport in every sense!

The last reports are that the Cygnus transporter is fine, the solar panels are out and it’s on the way to the ISS! Orbital Sciences has a page with great photos, NASA’s Flickr album of the launch is also amazing, the launch video has also been posted and I’m sure there will be a lot more photos since the launch should have been almost as perfectly visible as LADEE. No word about any frogs hitching a ride, but there has been talk that the amphibians have been trying to invade the launchport at Wallops! :-)

[Update 29.09.: And today, after some delays caused by a now-fixed software glitch, the Cygnus space freighter today has been successfully docked to the ISS! In the meantime, on Wednesday a new crew has arrived on the station bringing the permanent residents in outer space back to six.]

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