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Next Orbital Sciences resupply mission slips to June

Posted: April 22, 2014

The second space station resupply run by Orbital Sciences Corp. has been reset for June after NASA officials juggled the outpost's visiting vehicle manifest to accommodate delays in launching a SpaceX cargo craft, the company announced Monday.

File photo of an Antares rocket launch. Photo credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now
Launch of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft is set for no earlier than June 10 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

If liftoff occurs June 10, the launch time would be approximately 2:07 a.m. EDT (0607 GMT). The launch time is determined by the orbit of the space station.

Orbital Sciences was preparing for launch was soon as May 6 in case SpaceX was unable to launch its resupply mission by late April, but Sunday's arrival of the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule at the space station allows Orbital to stand down and reschedule its launch for June.

The decision to delay the launch to June was expected.

NASA officials wanted at least one of the two commercial resupply ships to reach the space station in the next few weeks to bolster the space station's stocks of food, provisions and research experiments.

The Orbital Sciences mission's move to June avoids a scheduling conflict with the ongoing Dragon mission, a Soyuz crew rotation in May, and high solar angles on the space station's orbit in early June.

"The Antares and Cygnus teams have made great progress in preparing for this mission," Orbital Sciences wrote in a mission update on the company's website.

About 65 percent of the cargo manifested for the Cygnus supply mission, known as Orb-2, is already loaded inside the spacecraft's Italian-built pressurized cargo module. NASA has identified 1,650 kilograms, or 3,637 pounds, of cargo to be carried to the space station on the Orb-2 mission.

Earlier in April, technicians attached the Cygnus craft's cargo cabin and service module.

"The team has also been completing final Cygnus closeouts and has transferred the integrated Cygnus spacecraft from the payload processing facility on the Wallops main base to the fueling facility on Wallops Island," the company wrote in the update. "Fueling will take place in the near future. The remaining cargo, some of which is time-sensitive, will be loaded just prior to the encapsulation of the spacecraft within the Antares rocket's fairing."

Officials said final testing is nearing completion on the Antares rocket for the Orb-2 mission, and teams will soon move on to preparing the next Antares launcher for the Orb-3 resupply mission scheduled for launch in October. The two rockets are located inside the Horizontal Integration Facility about one mile north of the Antares launch pad.

Orbital Sciences has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA for eight Cygnus resupply flights through 2016.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.