Oct. 22 - A Cygnus cargo capsule undocks from the International Space Station Tuesday, paving the way for regular supply runs to the orbiting outpost. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. completed a successful test mission at the International Space Station, clearing the firm to begin regular cargo runs for NASA under a $1.9 billion contract. Using the space station's robotic arm, astronauts aboard the station plucked the Orbital Sciences' Cygnus capsule from its docking port and released the unmanned capsule into space as the two sailed high over the Atlantic Ocean. The capsule was launched on September 18 aboard an Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket from a new commercial spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia. Cygnus arrived at the station 11 days later. Docking was delayed a week due to a spacecraft communications glitch and the higher priority arrival of new station crew members aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. The capsule is scheduled to make two braking maneuvers on Wednesday to lose altitude so it can be tugged back into Earth's atmosphere by the planet's gravity and burn up. Cygnus, which carried about 1,300 pounds of cargo to the station, was loaded up with trash and items no longer needed aboard the station before its release. Orbital Sciences is the second of two U.S. firms hired by NASA to fly cargo to the space station, a $100 billion project of 15 nations, following the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011. Rival Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, a privately owned California company, began work for NASA about 18 months before Orbital Sciences. It has already made a test flight and two cargo runs to the station, a permanently staffed research complex that flies about 250 miles above Earth.