Cheers to Orbital Sciences, Cheers to SpaceX

Yesterday, Orbital Sciences' resupply spacecraft, Cygnus, successfully birthed with the International Space Station (ISS).  Cygnus brought with it a payload of 700 kilograms, the largest privately delivered yet.  The mission's success indicates Orbital Sciences' readiness to continue the Commercial Orbital Transport Services (COTS) delivery contract (A 1.9 billion dollar contract) with NASA.  Though NASA and Orbital Sciences publicized the event, the limelight soon shifted to another player within the space. 

SpaceX, which completed a similar rendezvous with the ISS a year earlier, launched an improved version of their rocket, Falcon 9, hours after the ISS captured Cygnus.  Since the Cygnus-ISS docking marks only the second time in history for a private spacecraft docking, one might think that SpaceX's mere rocket launch would seem trivial in comparison.  Well, that one would be wrong.

Based on Topsy, the rocket launch by SpaceX had no trouble eclipsing Orbital Sciences' accomplishments, and this was the general sentiment found elsewhere online.  The Hacker News community demonstrated this mindset with the respective SpaceX article receiving 2.5 times the upvotes; On Reddit, the disparity was even greater.  

It appears that people have picked their favorite contender within space transport.  Though it is no surprise that tech-savvy groups favor Ellon Musk's startup, the disinterest towards milestone accomplishments within space transportation, regardless of who the company is or isn't, is surprising.  This favoritism is a disadvantage Orbital Sciences will face while securing its role in the future of space transport and exploration.

Since the beginning of the COTS program, there have been demands within Congress (Specifically within the Republican party) that NASA choose just one company for its crew transport.  This position has been criticized for the harm that would follow after eliminating a worthy competitor within the space; and though both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences were awarded Space Act Agreements for COTS, one can't help but wonder how the competitive landscape for further NASA contracting will look between the two companies.  I think the accomplishments of both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences are big in their own right and that we all benefit from them. They both are bringing watershed moments to the timeline of space exploration. But If you cheer one-sided, the danger is that you are cheering for a monopoly.