Orbital ATK eyeing August launch of ‘Enhanced’ Antares
Orbital ATK is working toward conducting the first flight of the newly re-engined Antares 230 launch vehicle sometime in August. The flight is slated to take place from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad-0A.
The Dulles, Virginia-based aerospace firm noted that it was continuing work to prepare the S.S. Alan Poindexter Cygnus spacecraft for its flight to the International Space Station.
“We are continuing to prepare for the upcoming launch of the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft for the OA-5 cargo logistics mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility,” said orbital ATK’s Sean Wilson, “Our Antares team recently completed a successful stage test and is wrapping up the test data analysis.”
A recent report appearing on NASASpaceFlight.com noted that the RD-181 rocket engines this new version of Antares will sport are a replacement for the Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ26 engines that earlier versions of the medium-class launcher used.
“Final trajectory shaping work is also currently underway, which is likely to result in an updated launch schedule in the August timeframe,” Wilson said. “A final decision on the mission schedule, which takes into account the space station traffic schedule and cargo requirements, will be made in conjunction with NASA in the next several weeks. Also, our Cygnus spacecraft for the OA-6 mission successfully undocked from the space station and hosted the Spacecraft Fire Experiment-I (Saffire). The team is now performing the final OA-6 mission milestones.”
Antares successfully used the AJ26 for four flights starting in 2013 until the Orb-3 mission in 2014 saw the loss of the rocket and Cygnus spacecraft it carried some 12 seconds into the flight. The probable cause of the accident was traced back to a turbopump in one of the two 40-year-old AJ26s that the booster used.
Orbital ATK had already been in the process of upgrading to the “Enhanced” versions of both Antares and Cygnus at the time of the accident. When it launches, the OA-5 flight will see the Antares 230 use Orbital ATK’s CASTOR 30XL solid motor as the rocket’s second stage.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.