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The competition heats up: On its next cargo mission to ISS Orbital Sciences plans on launching an upgraded Antares rocket.
For its third paid cargo mission to station, slated to launch Oct. 21, Orbital will replace the ATK Castor 30B Antares used for its latest launch with an ATK Castor 30XL. The upgrade will allow Cygnus to carry about 2,290 kilograms of cargo to station — an increase of nearly 40 percent by mass, compared with the second mission, according to Orbital’s Aug. 18 press release.
The Castor 30XL is the latest in the Castor 30 series ATK developed specifically as an Antares upper stage. A pair of Antares demonstration launches in 2013, which did not count toward fulfilling the company’s delivery-and-disposal contract with NASA, used the Castor 30A. ATK has lengthened subsequent versions of the motor, squeezing more power out of it by packing it full of more solid fuel.
Like SpaceX, Orbital Sciences is demonstrating the ability here to do operational missions simultaneously with developmental missions.