Unlike its competitor SpaceX, the Orbital Sciences Corporation has been launching rockets into space for years and now the company says its ready to demonstrate its own cargo delivery capabilities by delivering an upcoming payload to the International Space Station.
Much like SpaceX, Orbital Sciences also received funding for space cargo shipments through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.
The 30-year-old firm which has successfully launched more than 60 rockets of its own while carrying more than 125 satellites is responsible for pioneering the idea of affordable commercial space travel.
Speaking to Wired company spokesman Barry Beneski notes:
“COTS is exactly what the company was founded to do.”
And he is right on the money with his statement, nearly one-third of the company’s $1.5 billion in revenue will come from civil government contracts in 2012 while one-third of the businesses revenue come from communication satellite companies and other commercial providers. The rest of the company’s revenue arrives in the form of government defense contracts.
Orbital has received $288 million in funding from NASA under the COTS program, approximately $100 million less than SpaceX but the company also had three years less time to develop its ISS docking program which explains the disparity in funds received.
Orbital in the meantime will launch its ISS cargo from a newly refurbished pad at NASA’s Wallops Island launch facility. The company uses its Antares rocket to launch its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit. Much like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket the Antares is a two-stage rocket that uses kerosene and liquid oxygen as propellant for the first stage and then solid-fueled rocket technology for the second stage.
[Orbital craft pictures is not the ISS based cargo system]