Virginia company builds shuttle replacement
The Space Shuttle program may be over, but the International Space Station is still up and running. For now, U.S. astronauts will have to hitch a ride aboard the Russian Soyuz. But resupplying the station is about to become the responsibility of a company just outside the Beltway.
Orbital Sciences Corporation has been launching rockets and building commercial satellites for almost thirty years. It’s latest rocket, the Taurus II and its companion capsule, Cygnus, is designed to do much of what NASA’s space shuttle once did: bring supplies and cargo to the space station. Who better to be at the helm of this new spacecraft than a former shuttle astronaut.
“I’d rather be flying of course,” said former NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson, only half-kidding.
Culbertson is a veteran of three spaceflights and he’s spent more than four months aboard the space station. Today, he’s a Senior Vice President and Deputy General Manager of Orbital Sciences.
“It is exciting to still be part of the team and to still provide access to space for the United States,” said Culbertson.
Orbital Sciences is one of only two companies contracted by NASA to resupply the space station. While the company’s ambitions are aimed at space, the payoff is already being felt here on earth with almost 2,000 jobs and counting in the D.C.-area alone.
“We like the fact that we’re a Virginia based company. We’re launching out of Virginia. A lot of our employees live in Virginia,” said Culbertson.”
The first test flight for the Taurus II is slated for this fall at the Wallops Island Flight Facility. If that’s a success, this Virginia company could be the first company to be in the resupplying business with the space station.
Orbital Sciences is competing for that title with another company - Space X. They’re based in Hawthorne, California.