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Orbital submits proposal for space plane

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Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. has submitted a proposal to NASA for a space plane that would shuttle crews to the International Space Station.

The Orbital proposal came in response to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development-2 contract solicitation.

NASA is seeking commercial vehicles that would replace the soon-to-phased-out space shuttle.

Orbital’s space plane concept includes:

• A “blended lifting body” vehicle that would be launched by an expendable rocket. The winged vehicle would return to Earth for a runway landing.
• The space plane would carry four astronauts.
• The proposed project would use a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, but could accommodate other launch vehicle options

Major suppliers for the Orbital proposal include Thales Alenia Space, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell and Draper Laboratory, and United Launch Alliance.

“We have submitted to NASA a well-considered commercial solution for astronaut transportation to and from the ISS that is safe, affordable and timely,” Frank Culbertson, a former NASA astronaut and Orbital’s senior vice president for human spaceflight systems, said in a statement. “Our team is looking forward to sharing our ideas with NASA in greater detail and discussing how they can best be applied to helping the United States continue to access the ISS in the safest and most cost-effective manner possible, as well as supporting commercial ventures that are seeking access to space.”

Orbital is already under contract with NASA to provide unmanned cargo logistics services to the space station under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program.


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