Orbital Sciences Corporation Submits Proposal for New Spaceplane to Serve ISS

The orbit capable vehicle would seat four astronauts, providing a cost-effective solution for NASA’s astronaut transportation needs, as well as enabling future commercial applications.

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation has announced that it has submitted a proposal to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in response to the Commercial Crew Development-2 contract solicitation. The company also provided several top-level details of its proposal for providing safe and affordable transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) and for commercial activities in Earth orbit in a press release.

The space plane is proposed to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, but Orbital says other vehicles could be used. It would land on a runway like the shuttle. The spacecraft has the appearance of the HL-20 initially developed by the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia.

Orbital submitted the proposal under the second rouund of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, or CCDev. The Boeing Co. said Monday that it has proposed continued development of an Apollo-like capsule that could carry seven people to launch on an Atlas-V which has strong interest from Bigelow Aerospace.

“We have submitted to NASA a well-considered commercial solution for astronaut transportation to and from the ISS that is safe, affordable and timely,” said Mr. Frank Culbertson, a former NASA astronaut and Orbital’s Senior Vice President for Human Spaceflight Systems. “Our team is looking forward to sharing our ideas with NASA in greater detail and discussing how they can best be applied to helping the United States continue to access the ISS in the safest and most cost-effective manner possible, as well as supporting commercial ventures that are seeking access to space.”

Orbital is already under contract with NASA to provide unmanned cargo logistics services to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program using a commercial system consisting of the company’s Taurus® II medium-class space launch vehicle, its Cygnus™ cargo logistics spacecraft and a ground-based command and control systems. Orbital is slated to carry out a demonstration flight of the combined system in 2011, followed by operational cargo delivery services beginning in early 2012 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Accomack County, Va [vid].

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