NASA announced that the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo ship successfully launched from the space agency’s Wallops Launch Center in Virginia on September 18, 2013 at 10:48 EDT on top of an Antares rocket. Thus far the flight is proceeding nominally with a planned rendezvous with the International Space Station to take place on Sunday, September 22.
The spacecraft’s two solar arrays have successfully deployed and ground controllers are checking out its systems in advance of the planned arrival to the ISS. According to Orbital Sciences, the Cygnus is capable of delivering 2,000 kgs of cargo to the ISS. When it arrives, it will be grabbed by the space station’s remote manipulator arm and will be berthed at Node 2. After delivering its cargo, the Cygnus will undock with 1,000 kgs of space station refuse and will be allowed to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Orbital Science’s Cygnus is the second commercially developed cargo ship developed under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program initiated under President George W. Bush. The first is the SpaceX Dragon, which has already successfully completed two cargo flights. Orbital Sciences has contracted for eight flights of the Cygnus to the ISS.