Orbital Sciences Cygnus flight delayed to 2013

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The first test flight of Orbital Sciences' Cygnus cargo capsule is delayed until the end of the first quarter of 2013. Previous schedules had the vehicle flying before the end of 2012.

"Right now I think the date is very late March or very early April, this far out it's kind of hard to pin to an exact date," says Barry Beneski, public relations executive at Orbital Sciences. "We would likely be ready to go before that date, but we wouldn't fit into NASA's schedule. So then it becomes a question of, when is NASA ready to receive us?"

Orbital Sciences has until now maintained that the flight was scheduled before the end of 2012. While observers have questioned the schedule previously, remarks by CEO David Thompson during an 18 October earnings call is the first official acknowledgement.

Cygnus is to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on its first flight, assuming all goes well during launch and rendezvous. The capsule will launch atop an Antares launch vehicle, a rocket that has yet to fly.

The first Antares flight is scheduled for December. Cold-flow fuel propellant tests are scheduled to begin the week of 21 October, followed by a hot-fire test in November.