Beyond SpaceX: Five companies seeking to change space travel

During the past 10 years, Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have directed NASA to turn the job of transporting cargo and crew to the space station over to the private sector. As that process gathers pace, here is a list of the key players.

2. Orbital Sciences Corporation

Orbital Sciences Corporation
An animation of Cygnus, Orbital Sciences' cargo craft, approaching the International Space Station.

Orbital Sciences, founded in 1982, is building its Antares rocket to deliver cargo to the space station and perform commercial satellite launches. Using up to three stages, the rocket is designed to carry up to 6.1 metric tons to low-Earth orbit.

In addition, the company is building a pressurized cargo craft, dubbed Cygnus, to ride atop Antares. It is designed to carry up to 2.7 metric tons of cargo to the space station. Unlike SpaceX's Dragon capsule, designed to return cargo to the ground as well as deliver it to the space station, Cygnus is a one-and-done craft, like the unmanned resupply craft the Russians, Japanese, and Europeans use.

In all, Orbital Sciences has a stable of four rockets, including its Taurus ground-launched rocket and its Pegasus rocket, which is launched from the underside of a modified Lockheed L-1011 airliner. Pegasus was first launched in 1990 and can loft hardware weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

The company plans its first Antares test launch from NASA's facility at Wallops Island, Va., and its first space-station resupply run toward the end of 2012.

2 of 6

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.