The first of nine Pressurized Cargo Modules (PCM), developed by Thales Alenia Space for Orbital Sciences Corporation s Cygnus spacecraft to carry supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), was launched today, at 10:58 am local time (04:58 pm in Italy), by Orbital s Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia.
Thales Alenia Space s plant in Turin, Italy delivered the PCM to Orbital, which integrated it with the spacecraft s Service Module to form the CygnusTM transport vehicle. Today's launch was a demonstration mission for NASA'sCommercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.
The first operational mission of a Cygnus spacecraft will be carried out by the end of the year; however, this demonstration mission is carrying 700 kg of cargo to the ISS. The Cygnus spacecraft will be captured by the Space Station s robotic arm after four days in orbit and mated to the Nadir port of Node 2, also built by Thales Alenia Space. It will be welcomed by the Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA), Luca Parmitano, assigned to the long-duration Volare mission by the Italian space agency. The spacecraft will be docked to the International Space station for 30 days, then loaded with waste and sent back towards Earth, burning up during its reentry into the 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. The success of this first launch is especially significant for Thales Alenia Space, since it validates Italy's cutting-edge space technology," said Elisio Prette, President and CEO of Thales Alenia Space Italia. "It also ensures our ongoing role as one of today's leading international suppliers of space infrastructures. The service life of the ISS is now being extended to at least 2020, which should generate many exciting new business opportunities, and Thales Alenia Space fully intends to take a lead role in seizing these opportunities."
Thales Alenia Space will deliver a total of nine Pressurized Cargo Modules for the Cygnus spacecraft carrying crew supplies, spare parts and scientific experiments 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 configuration 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.