Orbital Sciences Suggests a New Antares for Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch has been pretty quiet as of late, but an Orbital Sciences conference call reported in Space News sheds some new light on the booster the behemoth twin fuselage aircraft may be lofting.

Originally reported as likely to be a solid cored booster comprised of components provided by ATK,  based on comments by CEO David Thompson to investors, it appears the booster will be an alternate version of OSC’s Antares.

While the comments do not preclude the possibility of an all solid booster as well, it is an interesting development, made all the more intriguing by the fact that Orbital is entertaining bids from three different engines, two Russian and one American, as well as examining a U.S. built first stage to replace the current one built in eastern Ukraine.

From a launch development perspective, the substitution of a liquid fueled first stage at least raises the possibility, remote as it may be, of an eventual transition to a reusable, flyback version. To be clear, OSC has said nothing along these lines, and assuming it secures a new stage engine, the company can probably anticipate winning further ISS resupply contracts through 2024.

In the long run however, even if the first stage of the CRS-3 Falcon 9 washes up on shore at OSC’s Wallops Island launch pad, it does not appear to be unlikely that a subsequent Falcon 9R will gently touch down on the eastern tip of Cape Canaveral long before OSC manages to fly a new engine.  Given the steady march towards re-usability by the company which OSC refuses to identify by name, it might be something to think about.

About the Author:

Post a Comment