Many private aerospace companies are hoping to leap into the upper atmosphere and beyond. Space.com reports that one is way ahead of the game. Orbital Sciences has been building rockets for 30 years, and now it is constructing a transport vehicle designed for use with the International Space Station.
Orbital Sciences is creating an unmanned space freighter for the space station, as well as a new rocket to launch it. The freighter, called the Cygnus, will have a pressurized module that can carry cargo up to astronauts aboard the station. It will also work in conjunction with the space station. Barron Beneski is the vice president of corporate communications for Orbital Sciences. As he told Space.com, "The service module is being designed to human safety standards."
The company, located in Virginia, has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to take eight flights to the space station. This is not the first time Orbital Sciences has worked with the government. The company was the lead contractor on the Orion Launch Abort System, which would have helped astronauts escape the now-cancelled Ares I rocket. It has privately been launching the Pegasus rockets for years, and it has launched the Minotaur rockets that serve the U.S. government and military. Presently, it is also at work developing a new Minotaur 4 rocket for the U.S. military for May 2010.
All of this means more action in space. Last month, President Obama famously instructed NASA to support the development of commercial spacecraft. He further proposed that NASA cancel its Constellation program, intended to return Americans to the moon. Constellation is reportedly too costly, uses outdated technology and would not get Americans on the moon before 2028. President Obama’s new plan involves private industry picking up part of the tab.
Commercial industry seems ready to step up. As Beneski told Space, com, "Under the right circumstances, we believe that the commercial industry — with proper government oversight on safety — can do this.”
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