Initial evidence shows that the decades-old rocket engines used by Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. were the cause of the catastrophic explosion Oct. 28, spurring the company to look to its competitors to help launch its vehicle to the International Space Station.
Orbital will need to go to direct competitors to launch its Cygnus cargo spacecraft. CEO David Thompson said the company is in discussions with three launch providers — two in the U.S. and one based in Europe.
The two primary U.S. launch companies are Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the other company with a contract to deliver cargo to the space station, which has its Falcon 9 rocket, and United Launch Alliance, which has its Atlas and Delta rocket family.
Orbital said it will likely need to launch only one or two non-Antares rockets to satisfy its NASA commitments.
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