Alternative rockets and 2015 launch dates for Cygnus

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The heat of competition: Orbital Sciences has pinpointed available launch slots and alternative rockets for getting Cygnus into orbit in 2015.

[Orbital CEO David] Thompson said Wednesday the company has narrowed its options to three launch providers which have openings as early as the second quarter — between April 1 and June 30 — of next year. Two of the launch providers are based in the United States. Orbital could also launch Cygnus missions with a European-based company, Thompson said. The contractors under consideration are presumably United Launch Alliance, SpaceX and Arianespace.

Unlike Virgin Galactic’s claims in my previous post, I find Thompson’s prediction here quite likely. His main problem is not technical but political. He has to convince his competitors to help him, and this story is his first shot across the bow in that negotiation. By making these facts public, Thompson applies pressure on these other companies to agree. And though the request is unstated, he is also enlisting NASA’s aid, since the agency is certain to back him in this negotiation and apply its clout in his favor.



  • wodun

    On one hand it is kind of cool that they have the margin to subcontract to SpaceX or another provider but the downside is that in order to remain true to the goal of redundancy, SpaceX wouldn’t be a good choice.

  • mpthompson

    If one accident has made Orbital Science loose complete confidence in their existing rocket, I have to wonder if they should have been launching on that rocket at all.

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