Artist’s illustration of Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft approaching the space station.
Image credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Artist illustration of Orbital’s Antares rocket on the launch pad

Orbital closing in on inaugural launch of Antares

By Charles Black
29 January 2013

(Sen) – Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital), one of the contractors under NASA’s cargo transport program, has been busy testing its Antares rocket ahead of the launcher’s inaugural flight which is being planned for March.

If the test flight goes according to plan, Antares could send Orbital’s cargo freighter, Cygnus, to the space station in May or June.

Orbital has been working under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program to develop a cargo transport system that can deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

The company also has a Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) contract, awarded in 2008, for eight cargo resupply missions to the ISS. However, before it can begin fulfilment of its CRS contract it must pass the development and demonstration phase of COTS.

To deliver cargo to the space station, Orbital has been busy building a new rocket, called Antares, and a cargo ship called Cygnus. Orbital has completed all but one cold flow test (wet dress rehearsal) of Antares, and the final test will take place any day now. The hot fire test of Antares’ first stage is set for February. The ground test and the launch will take place at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Its all part of the preparation for the first launch which should take place 4 to 6 weeks after the hot fire test.

Read more: Orbital closing in on inaugural launch of Antares — Sen.

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