CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA's newest delivery service made its first-ever shipment to the International Space Station on Sunday, another triumph for the booming commercial space arena.
Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned cargo ship, the Cygnus, pulled up at the orbiting lab with a half-ton of meals and special treats for the station astronauts who assisted in the high-flying feat.
With the smooth linkup, Orbital Sciences of Virginia became only the second company to accomplish such a far-flung shipment. The California-based SpaceX company took the lead last year.
NASA officials along with White House representatives declared it a historic day. "I just couldn't be happier and more proud," said the NASA manager overseeing this commercial effort, Alan Lindenmoyer.
The Cygnus — named after the swan constellation — should have arrived Sept. 22, four days following its launch from Virginia. But a discrepancy in navigation data between the capsule and the space station led to a frustrating delay. A simple software repair was carried out by ground controllers. Then the Cygnus had to wait for a Russian spacecraft to bring three new astronauts.
The successful arrival means Orbital Sciences can start making good on a $1.9 billion contract with NASA for more Cygnus deliveries, each one carrying more and more cargo.
SpaceX has been launching its supply ships from Cape Canaveral for more than a year. It's also working on a possible manned capsule that would ferry astronauts to the space station.
From Southern California on Sunday, SpaceX launched a beefed-up Falcon 9 rocket with a Canadian science satellite. The demo flight appeared to go well.