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Are we entering the age of private spaceflight?

Two private American companies – SpaceX and Orbital Sciences – are now responsible for restocking the International Space Station. 

This close-up shows the first Cygnus commercial cargo spacecraft built by Orbital Sciences Corp. attached to the end of the robotic arm on the International Space Station after the two spacecraft met at 7 a.m. ET on Sept. 29, 2013.


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Two private American companies are now responsible for hauling cargo to the International Space Station.

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft attached to the orbiting laboratory today by 8:44 a.m. EDT (1244 GMT), a first for the cargo ship. The rendezvous was nearly flawless, according to officials with NASA and the private company.

The historic arrival of the Cygnus spacecraft at the space station this morning (Sept. 29) makes Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences the second private, American company to rendezvous with the station. [See photos from Orbital Sciences' 1st Cygnus test flight]

"It's certainly a great day to fly in space," Holly Ridings, NASA flight director, said during a news conference today.

This first spaceflight for Cygnus demonstrates that the spacecraft can safely fly and deliver supplies to the International Space Station as part of a contract with NASA. Orbital Sciences penned a $1.9 billion deal with the space agency to fly eight cargo missions to the station using Cygnus and the company's Antares rocket. The first of those contracted missions is set to launch in December.

Hawthorne, Calif.-based spaceflight company SpaceX was the first private company to successfully send their Dragon capsule to the space station under a deal with NASA. SpaceX is contracted to launch 12 resupply missions to the station using Dragon and its Falcon 9 rocket.


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