Orbital Sciences ready for first launch of Antares rocket

Apr 17, 2013 by Jean-Louis Santini
Image provided by NASA shows Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on October 1, 2012. Orbital Sciences is preparing for the first launch of its Antares rocket Wednesday.

Orbital Sciences, one of two private US firms chosen by NASA to shuttle cargo to the International Space Station, is preparing for the first launch of its Antares rocket Wednesday.

The launch over the Atlantic ocean is scheduled for 5 pm (2100 GMT) from the Wallops flight facility from an island off the coast of Virginia about 270 kilometers from Washington.

The two-stage , 131 feet (40 meters) tall and 12.8 feet (3.9 meters) in diameter, aims to hit an orbit of 155 miles (250 kilometers) some ten minutes after take-off.

give a 45 percent change of favorable conditions.

As this is a test mission, Antares will not be transporting the company's Cygnus capsule but will instead carry a simulation of an equivalent payload.

If the launch is a success, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences plans a demonstration run to the space station with the Cygnus capsule in three months, followed by its first delivery mission before the end of the year.

NASA image captured by astronaut Chris Hadfield on board the ISS on March 27, 2013 shows the Dragon capsule. SpaceX made history when Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft in history to successfully attach to the ISS in a May 2012 test flight.

"We see this as a key milestone in proving what can be done in an industry-government partnership," Mike Pinkston, the program manager for Antares at Orbital Sciences, said in a conference call Tuesday.

The , in offering its expertise and equipment to partners in the private sector, aims to achieve "safe, reliable and cost-effective access to space and to low orbit and to the ISS in particular," said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA's commercial crew and cargo program.

"We also recognize the need to create a that will sustain these capabilities, and the ISS provides a perfect market for this new capability with reliable and predictable needs."

The $1.9 billion contract requires Orbital Sciences to deliver freight to the ISS over the course of eight flights by the beginning of 2016. Cygnus has a capacity of two tons.

Unlike the Dragon capsule developed by rival , Cygnus cannot return to Earth and will be destroyed upon re-entry after its mission is complete.

SpaceX made history when Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft in history to successfully attach to the in a May 2012 test flight.

Previously only four governments—the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency—had achieved this challenging technical feat.

Dragon has already successfully completed three missions to the space station and must complete another 10 to fulfill California-based SpaceX's $1.6 billion contract.

NASA retired its fleet of space shuttles in July 2011 and has been relying on Russia's Soyouz spacecraft to transport its astronauts to the ISS at a cost of $63 million a seat.

US cargo was being transported to the ISS by European, Japanese and Russian shuttles which, like Cygnus, cannot return to Earth and are destroyed upon re-entry.

SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada have also been retained by NASA to develop ships to transport astronauts to the ISS and other destinations.

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User comments : 10

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DavidW
1 / 5 (7) Apr 17, 2013
Bernal spheres that house a trillion animals for slaughter next?

If needless slaughter is a happy meal now, then why won't it still be then? Let's face it. Almost everyone involved in these projects kills for the sole purpose of pleasure.
ScottyB
4 / 5 (4) Apr 17, 2013
Bernal spheres that house a trillion animals for slaughter next?

If needless slaughter is a happy meal now, then why won't it still be then? Let's face it. Almost everyone involved in these projects kills for the sole purpose of pleasure.


WHAT are you talkin about man
Husky
1 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2013
hey david i think you might be barking up the wrong tree here, the one you are looking for already fell in the forest but there was nobody around to hear it.
GSwift7
3 / 5 (4) Apr 17, 2013
create a market environment that will sustain these capabilities, and the ISS provides a perfect market for this new capability with reliable and predictable needs


Orbital is a good fit for ISS supply. SpaceX will need to do much more than just ISS supply. Orbital uses recycled ICBM's, of which there is a limited supply, but the ISS has a limited lifespan, so that's okay. SpaceX has developed a full scale system from scratch, and will need a lot more than just ISS missions if they plan to stay in business once the ISS is gone. Orbital can just go back to doing all the things they've been doing for the past couple of decades when the ISS business dries up. Orbital should be able to beat the SpaceX cost/kg, but they can't do heavy loads or high orbits.
alq131
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 17, 2013
My guess is that Elon Musk has big plans. Mars would be quite a feat, but definitely possible. What if he were able to pull off a manned Phobos mission or a Mars sample return? Things like that could pay for the investment. This interest in "Mars One" reality show is a bit interesting and while it might not take off (pun intended) SpaceX could certainly pull off some real mission with value. Bigelow could also be a big player, but yes, I think you're right, they need to make a larger market for their systems.
dschlink
5 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2013
Musk has stated repeatedly that manned Mars missions are a long-term goal. But in LEO, the more players the better.

GS - SpaceX has over 40 missions on its manifest, of which only 9 are ISS supply.
GSwift7
2 / 5 (2) Apr 17, 2013
GS - SpaceX has over 40 missions on its manifest, of which only 9 are ISS supply


Yes, I was pointing that out, since the bulk of articles seem to focus on the ISS for some reason. I guess that's more sexy than boring old satellite launches. lol.

Musk has stated repeatedly that manned Mars missions are a long-term goal


Once the Falcon Heavy is ready, the unmanned Dragon is supposedly capable of soft landing over 2000 lbs of payload on Mars. 2000 lbs probably isn't enough to do a sample return though.
DavidW
1 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2013
Bernal spheres that house a trillion animals for slaughter next?

If needless slaughter is a happy meal now, then why won't it still be then? Let's face it. Almost everyone involved in these projects kills for the sole purpose of pleasure.


WHAT are you talkin about man


Due to the advances of science, we now know that eating animals is not required for nutrition when other plant based food is available. Just like how the world is not flat. Anyone involved in space travel that still needlessly consumes animals and their products for personal pleasure alone is unfit mentally. Stating otherwise is as silly as saying that the world is flat after it has been proven a sphere. It appears humans with space travel technology are going to INCREASE unnecessary suffering and death for nothing more than personal gratification. Open your eyes and see the actual suffering now.
baudrunner
1 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2013
DavidW: If god didn't want us to eat animals, he wouldn't have made them out of meat. Chicken is just so delicious, and beef, well don't get me started on beef. Prime rib.. hmm, yummy. Slow roasted barbecued pork, beef stew, duck, come on. Meat's just so delicious. And how could one make a BLT without the bacon? Oh, wow, bacon. Just imagine, a meat locker filled with sides of pork and the trimmings, just waiting to be all seasoned up and turned into sausages of all kinds - mortadella, salami, balogna, blood and tongue, the list is endless. And if you knew just how good fried blood and sour apples tasted..why, - and what about the ball park frank? You want to erase a history of tradition? And you just can't beat the quality of a Wendy's bacon mushroom melt. It's no wonder that they don't offer that one on the menu permanently. There's just not enough hamburger to go around if they did. Have you ever tried a turducken? They are best when wrapped in bacon. Mmmmm, meat...
DavidW
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
What is always important NEVER ceases to be important. Oh, snap.

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