The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

September 18, 2013

2nd private company rockets toward space station

WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY (AP) — A commercial cargo ship made its successful debut Wednesday, rocketing toward the International Space Station and doubling the number of NASA's private suppliers for the high-flying lab.

Orbital Sciences Corp. launched its first-ever supply ship from Virginia's Eastern Shore, the departing point for a NASA moonshot less than two weeks ago.

"Look out ISS, here we come," the company said in a tweet.

The capsule named Cygnus — bearing 1,300 pounds of food, clothing and goodies for the astronauts — is due at the orbiting outpost on Sunday, following four days of testing.

The Virginia-based Orbital Sciences is only the second business to attempt a shipment like this. The California-based SpaceX company has been delivering station supplies for more than a year under a NASA contract.

Orbital Sciences' unmanned Antares rocket — named for the bright red star — blasted into a clear sky from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. A test launch in April went well. So did this one, with a camera on the rocket providing dramatic views of the coastline. The entire commercial effort dates back five years.

It was Wallops' second high-profile launch this month. On Sept. 6, the company took part in a NASA moonshot that dazzled skywatchers along the East Coast. Wednesday's late-morning liftoff, while at a much more convenient hour, was not nearly as visible because of the daylight.

The three space station residents, circling 260 miles high, watched the launch via a live link provided by Mission Control in Houston.

"Good luck!" space station astronaut Karen Nyberg said in a tweet. She's expecting a fresh stash of chocolate.

Come Sunday, Nyberg and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano will use the space station's robot arm to grab Cygnus from orbit and attach it to the space station. Also on board is a Russian. The crew will double in size next week when another American and two Russians lift off aboard a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan.

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