The second of nine Cygnus resupply vehicles for the International Space Station was launched yesterday 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.
Following the successful demonstration mission in September, this was the first operational mission for NASA'sCommercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.
The Pressurized Cargo Module was shipped from Thales Alenia Space s Turin plant in July 2013 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 1,400 kg of cargo. It will then be loaded with waste materials, detached from the Space Station and burn up during its atmospheric reentry.
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.