Antares commercial rocket reaches new Atlantic coast launch pad

Oct 03, 2012 by Ken Kremer, Universe Today

At long last, Orbital Sciences Corporation has rolled their new commercially developed Antares medium class rocket to the nation's newest spaceport – the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island,Va – and commenced on pad operations as of Monday, Oct 1.

The long awaited rollout marks a key milestone on the path to the maiden test flight of the Antares, planned to blast off before year's end if all goes well.

This is a highly noteworthy event because Antares is the launcher for Orbital's unmanned commercial Cygnus cargo spacecraft that NASA's hopes will reestablish resupply missions to the (ISS) lost with the shuttle's shutdown.

"MARS has completed construction and testing operations on its launch complex at Wallops Island, the first all-new large-scale liquid-fuel launch site to be built in the U.S. in decades," said David W. Thompson, Orbital's President and .

"Accordingly, our pad operations are commencing immediately in preparation for an important series of ground and of our Antares medium-class over the next few months. In fact, earlier today (Oct. 1), an Antares first stage test article was transported to the pad from its final assembly building about a mile away, marking the beginning of full pad operations."

In about 4 to 6 weeks, Orbital plans to conduct a 30 second long hot fire test of the first stage, generating a total thrust of 680,000 lbs. If successful, a full up of the 131 foot tall Antares with a Cygnus mass simulator bolted on top is planned for roughly a month later.

An ISS docking demonstration mission to the ISS would then occur early in 2013 which would be nearly identical in scope to the 9/Dragon successfully launched and accomplished in May 2012.

The first commercial resupply mission to the ISS by SpaceX (CRS-1) is now set to lift off on Oct. 7 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The 700,000 lb thrust Antares first stage is powered by a pair of Soviet era NK-33 engines built during the 1960 and 1970's as part of Russia's ill-fated N-1 manned moon program. The engines have since been upgraded and requalified by Aerojet Corp. and integrated into the Ukrainian built first stage rocket as AJ-26 engines.

NASA awarded contracts to Orbital Sciences Corp and SpaceX in 2008 to develop unmanned commercial resupply systems with the goal of recreating an American capability to deliver cargo to the ISS which completely evaporated following the forced retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle orbiters in 2011 with no follow on program ready to go.

"Today's (Oct. 1) rollout of Orbital's Antares test vehicle and the upcoming SpaceX mission are significant milestones in our effort to return space station resupply activities to the United States and insource the jobs associated with this important work," said NASA Associate Administrator for Communications David Weaver. "NASA's commercial space program is helping to ensure American companies launch our astronauts and their supplies from U.S. soil."

The public will be invited to watch the Antares blastoff and there are a lot of locations for spectators to gather nearby for an up close and personal experience.

"Antares is the biggest rocket ever launched from Wallops," NASA Wallops spokesman Keith Koehler told me. "The launches will definitely be publicized."

Explore further: The view from up there, down here

Related Stories

American resupply missions to the space station progressing

Oct 02, 2012

(—Orbital Sciences Corporation Monday rolled the first stage of its Antares rocket to the launch pad of the nation's newest spaceport - the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va. - while in Florida, ...

Space Image: Antares rocket

Apr 19, 2012

The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket stands in launch position during pathfinder operations at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. ...

SpaceX delays upcoming 1st Dragon launch to ISS

Jan 17, 2012

The first test launch of a commercially built spacecraft to the International Space Station has been delayed by its builder, Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, in order to carry out additional testing ...

US space capsule launch set for Wednesday

Dec 07, 2010

A US company has received the go-ahead to launch its first space capsule into orbit Wednesday, in a key test for the future of commercial space flight as NASA looks to end its shuttle program.

Recommended for you

The view from up there, down here

3 hours ago

When many people saw the first stunning photos of the fragile blue marble of Earth from space, it changed their outlook of humanity. It was a singular moment in time when people around the world were watching ...

The weird ways fire behaves in space (w/ Video)

4 hours ago

Light a match on earth and you can expect the flame to shoot up in a tapering bulb. But light that match in space and you might not even recognize the small, blue orb at the tip. That's because fire behaves ...

Russia loses comms with ISS cargo spacecraft (Update)

7 hours ago

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were left with a long wait Tuesday to get their latest food and fuel deliveries after an unmanned Russian supply ship lost communications following takeoff.

Liquid crystal bubble OASIS in space

19 hours ago

No matter how beautiful or crystal clear the bubbling waters of an oasis may be, they seldom lead to technology breakthroughs. Yet, NASA's OASIS investigation's bubbles may lead to an ocean of new improvements ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.