New commercial cargo vehicle for the International Space Station preparing for launch in late 2011
Thales Alenia Space announced that it has delivered to Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) its first Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) developed to transport cargo to the International Space Station. This first PCM will be used for the CygnusTM demonstration mission, under NASAâ€™s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) research and development initiative with Orbital.
The module was shipped from the Thales Alenia Space plant in Turin, Italy to NASAâ€™s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, where Orbital will integrate it with the Cygnus service module to produce the complete Cygnus spacecraft. The first mission is currently scheduled for December 2011, using Orbitalâ€™s TaurusÂ® II launcher.
Following the demonstration flight, Thales Alenia Space will provide Orbital with eight more PCM units to be used for ISS cargo transport, in order to deliver crew supplies, spare parts and scientific experiments to the Station under Orbitalâ€™s Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) contract with NASA, .
The first PCM will be followed by three more units in â€œstandardâ€ configuration, capable of transporting up to 2,000 kg of cargo each, along with five â€œenhancedâ€ configuration units, boosting payload capacity to 2,700 kg.
â€œThe delivery of the first Pressurized Cargo Module for commercial space transportation is a major event for Thales Alenia Space,â€ said Luigi Maria Quaglino, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Space Infrastructures & Transportation Business Unit at Thales Alenia Space. â€œThis program is a strong sign of continuity for our long-standing position as a leader in the space infrastructure and transportation sector. In addition, we want to highlight that the PCM delivery also clearly reflects a new trend in the space business, namely the private sectorâ€™s engagement to fulfill critical services on a commercial basis â€“ a segment in which our company is playing a major role.â€
The CygnusTM spacecraft comprises a Service Module (SM) built by Orbital, and a Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) developed by Thales Alenia Space. Building on 30 years of experience in space infrastructures and transportation systems, the Cygnus PCM developed by Thales Alenia Space calls on the companyâ€™s skills and expertise developed through previous programs for the International Space Station, such as the MPLM (Multipurpose Logistics Module), built by the company on behalf of the Italian space agency for NASA, and the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) Cargo Carrier, built by Thales Alenia Space for the European Space Agency (ESA). Thales Alenia Space supplies half of the Space Stationâ€™s pressurized volume, and is also a key player in the Columbus laboratory and prime contractor for Node 2, Node 3 and the Cupola.