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NASA clears Orbital Sciences for ISS launch

Cygnus is designed to carry 1,300 pounds of supplies, for its orbital debut.

Orbital Sciences Corp. is all set to become the second private company to send a supply capsule to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA has cleared the commercial cargo capsule for a demonstration flight to ISS after it passed its launch readiness review.

Orbital Sciences demonstration flight

Orbital Sciences' two-stage Antares rocket and Cyngus spacecraft which flew to space for the first time in April are now scheduled to blast off at 10:50 a.m. EDT on Wednesday from NASA’s Wallop flight facility at the Virginia-owned Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

The trial cargo run was originally planned for Tuesday (Sept. 17) but was pushed back a day due to bad weather and a faulty communications cable that needed repairing.

There's a lot of excitement at Wallops because this payload will be going to the International Space Station," said Jeff Reddish, a NASA project manager. "It puts Wallops into an operational mode for this rocket."

1st delivery mission

After blasting off to orbit Wednesday, several systems and capabilities of Cygnus will be tested and after verification the results will be cleared to dock with the station on Sept. 22.

Though Cygnus is designed to carry up to 5,952 pounds (2,700 kg) of supplies, for its orbital debut, it will be packed with 1,300 pounds of food, clothing and other cargo considered "non-essential" in case the spacecraft faces problems and is unable to reach the station.

NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini explained, "For a demo flight, we don't typically fill them up.”

Cygnus will remain attached to the space station for a month and will burn up in the atmosphere after it is loaded with trash and departs the station.

SpaceX

If Orbital is successful it will join ranks of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), in flying supplies to the $100 billion research complex which orbits about 240 miles above Earth.

SpaceX has signed a $1.6 billion dollar deal with NASA to make 12 flights to the space station using its Dragon capsule. Dragon has visited the orbiting lab three times, once on a trail run the other two times on bona fide supply missions.