With Orbital looking at using a 3rd party launch service for their CRS contract, they have stated that Cygnus was designed with this in mind.

Does anyone have information or ideas on how they accommodated this feature?

I imagine the 3 key areas are Power, Data and Structural. P & D is probably covered by a standard, but I can't imagine structural is easy todo quickly.


1 Answer 1


Cygnus has two main components.

The Pressurized cargo compartment is built by Alenia-Thales in Italy. The same folk who built the pressure vehicles for most of the ISS modules and the ATV.

The bus or service module is based on a satellite design Orbital had on the shelf. It is based on GEOStar Satellite Bus and the Dawn spacecraft.

Thus the interface between Cygnus and the launcher is through the bus, which is a commercial product designed to be launched on commercial launchers.

A clever approach, which is common to the entire Cygnus/Antares stack. Use existing vendors, technologies, and components, just assemble them in an interesting fashion.

Jan 2024: For a fun update to this old question, Cygnus has now launched on:

  • Antares 130 (NK-33/AJ-26 engines)
  • Atlas V (RD-180 engine)
  • Antares 230 (RD-191 engines)
  • Falcon 9 (Merlin 1D engines)
  • Antares 330 (Rutherford engines) in the future

Seems like their flexible design payed off!

Wonder if any other major payload has launched on as many different boosters?

GPS Launched on (Based on Wikipedia:

  • Atlas E/F
  • Delta II 6925-9.5 (counting the 7925-9.5 variant as the same)
  • Delta IV M+ (4,2)
  • Atlas V 401
  • Falcon 9 B5

So depending on how you count Delta II variants this could go either way.

  • $\begingroup$ Ah, didn't think of a Satellite Bus. Do you know what kind? $\endgroup$
    – tl8
    Nov 6, 2014 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ Orbital's GEOStar Satellite Bus and Dawn $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Nov 7, 2014 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting update! $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ To be fair Falcon is Sunday, but you get the idea. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jan 25 at 2:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.