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Solar flare delays launch of private spacecraft

Yesterday, the Sun erupted its first X-class flare of the new year: a whopping X1 class monster. Ratings wise, flares are classed as (weakest to strongest) B, C, M, and X, with each having 9 separate sub classes ranging from 1-9. taking this into account, a X1 flare is, while not the most powerful, still extremely strong enough to delay the launch of a private spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).

Yesterday, it was announced that Orbital Sciences has decided to delay the launch of its Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS over concerns about levels of solar radiation.

Commenting on the decision to delay the launch, Orbital Sciences officials releaed a statement saying, among other things, that "early this morning the Antares launch team decided to scrub today's launch attempt due to an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded by a considerable margin the constraints imposed on the mission to ensure the rocket's electronic systems are not impacted by a harsh radiation environment.”

In laymans' terms, the launch is a no-go thanks to the Sun.

For Orbital Sciences, this is yet another delay in the mission, which was initially pushed back from a mid-December launch date thanks to a coolant pump failure on the ISS.

As for the future of the mission, Orbital Sciences has plans to o forward with the mission t 1:32[m EST today, with a 95% chance of favorable weather. If a launch does not happen today, the chances for one go down in the coming days as Earth, not space, weather, is looking increasingly lousy at the Wallops, Va launch site.

As for the company itself, Orbital Sciences has a $1.9 billion contract to launch 40,000 pounds of equipment to the ISS by 2016 by way of its Antares rockets and Cygnus space capsules.

This mission, when it happens, will be the first official launch in the NASA contract.

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