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Oct 23, 2013 10:01 AM EDT

Orbital Sciences to Complete First Successful Cygnus Resupply Mission to International Space Station


For the first time, a Cygnus cargo ship will leave the International Space Station (ISS) and head for the Earth to attempt to complete a successful mission, reported.

The spacecraft, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., detached itself from the ISS and will head back to Earth where it will self-destruct in a fiery demise above the Atlantic Ocean upon reentering the atmosphere.

Italy's Luca Parmitano, aboard the ISS, showed his gratitude to the Cygnus spacecraft and its operators.

"It was a real pleasure to work both with Cygnus and all the people on the ground," Parmitano radioed NASA's Mission Control in Houston.

Reuters reported the test run will open the door to regular missions from Orbital Sciences under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA. The spacecraft launched Sept. 18 on the Antares rocket from a commercial spaceport on Wallops Island, Va. The craft arrived 11 days later but docking was delayed to a communications glitch and the higher priority of the Russian Soyuz craft's arrival.

Despite the minor setback, NASA was highly pleased with the Cygnus craft's success.

"This test flight went pretty much without any hiccups at all," NASA mission commentator Josh Byerly said during a NASA Television broadcast of Cygnus' departure.

Cygnus carried about 1,300 pounds of goods to the ISS and will dispose of garbage and other items the astronauts have no use for as it burns up in Earth's atmosphere.

Orbital Sciences is the second U.S. firm to have a contract with NASA, following billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX. The California-based company has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for 12 ISS resupply missions.

"We are delighted to now have two American companies able to resupply the station," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "Congratulations to the teams at Orbital Sciences and NASA who worked hard to make this demonstration mission to the International Space Station an overwhelming success."

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