Launch Updates: NARO 11/29 ; Antares Next Year

After a replacement fueling block from Russia arrived by air on Saturday,  the Korean Aerospace Research Institute has set Nov. 29th as the new tentative  launch date for its NARO rocket.  If all goes as planned, liftoff will occur  at 4:00 PM local time.   This will mark the third and final flight for the NARO, or KSLV-3 as it is formally designated, and the end of a troubled joint venture between Korea and Russia which has seen the two previous flights end in failure.  NARO is a two stage vehicle consisting of liquid fuel Russian built first stage and a solid fuel Korean built second stage.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the first flight of Orbital Science Corporation’s Antares launch vehicle has been delayed until early next year to allow for clean-up from Hurricane Sandy, as well as sufficient time for a series of wet-dress rehearsals  and a 30 second static firing.  The Antares is also a two stage, liquid / solid combination of mixed international heritage, but in its case the first stage tank structure is built in Ukraine, and is powered by Russian built NK-33 engines  modified in the U.S. by Aerojet, and redesignated AJ-26.  The second stage is based on an ATK supplied Castor 30 solid rocket motor.

With the other half of NASA’s COTS/CRS  program for ISS resupply depending on the Antares and its Cygnus cargo vehicle, a successful first launch early next year  carrying an instrumented mass simulator and several tiny satellites,  would pave way for a test flight to ISS similar to that conducted by the SpaceX Dragon last May.  Significantly, with a solid launch performance in the first half of next year,  the Antares would also join the Falcon 9 in sweeping away the last vestiges of a rapidly vanishing rationale for continued monopoly support of United Launch Alliance.

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