Update: Retooled Antares 230 Rocket Set to Make its Debut on (Monday) Evening Flight

Ready Credit: NASA HQ

Credit: NASA HQ


Update from NASA:

Today’s launch of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket is postponed  24 hours  due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch check out. We have spares on hand and rework procedures are in process. The Antares and Cygnus teams are not currently working any technical issues with the rocket or the spacecraft.

The launch is now scheduled for October 17 at 7:40 p.m. EDT.

Original Story

Orbital ATK is set to debut its retooled and re-powered Antares rocket on Sunday evening as part of the NASA OA-5 resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Liftoff of the Antares 230 carrying a Cygnus resupply vessel from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia/Maryland Coast is set for a five minute window which opens at 8:03 PM EDT. The nighttime flight will offer the opportunity for people along a good swath of the U.S. East Coast to catch a glimpse of the booster on the horizon as it takes off in pursuit of the orbiting space station on a N/NE trajectory.

For Orbital ATK, the mission will be a welcome return to flight following the October 28th, 2014 loss of an Antares booster only seconds into the Orb-3 mission. That accident was caused by a failure of one of the two 40 year old Russian engines powering the rocket’s first stage, an incident which proved a boon to the legal profession, as Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne, which was responsible upgrading the engines, blamed each other for the failure, while Orbital, NASA and the State of Virginia argued over who should pay for extensive repairs to the launch pad.

Now however, the focus is on the future, and the first flight of the Antares 230, a rocket now sporting a pair of newly built Russia RD-181 engines powering the Ukraine built first stage, and an Orbital ATK built Castor 30XL solid fueled second stage. A transition which had been in the works prior to the 2014 loss, the introduction of the RD-181 engines bring increased thrust and specific impulse to the Antares, a change which will necessitate a slight throttling down of the rocket on the maiden flight.

The company eventually plans to produce the 300 series, which will feature a modified first stage which will be optimized to match the new engines. Altogether, Orbital ATK has at least 12 confirmed flights on the books for Antares, six under the current NASA CRS-1 resupply contract, and at least another 6 under the follow-on CRS-2 contract, which begins in 2019.

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