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Shakedown flight for Cygnus

At 10:58 a.m. Wednesday morning, an Antares rocket launched the first mission of the commercial spacecraft Cygnus. Read related article.

Cygnus and Antares. Illustration by Patterson Clark

Launched from Wallops Island, Va., the spacecraft will deliver more than 1,500 pounds of noncritical cargo to the international space station. NASA has a contract with Cygnus maker Orbital Sciences to deliver more than 22 tons of cargo to the space station in eight missions over four years, with the first scheduled for early December.

Cygnus is a pressurized cargo module. Two versions of the spacecraft have been developed, the largest of which can carry a payload of three tons.

Antares made its second flight Wednesday. The rocket is the first liquid-fueled engine designed by Orbital Sciences, which has been based in Dulles for three decades.

12 ft.

Cargo module

Service module

133 ft.


Solid fuel

Liquid oxygen/
kerosene fuel

SOURCE: Orbital Sciences.