Antares inches closer to launch

Antares launch illustration

Illustration of Orbital’s Antares rocket lifting off from the Mid-Altantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Virginia. (Credit: OSC)

In July, Orbital Sciences Corporation announced a new schedule for the initial tests of its Antares rocket, including the first launches of the vehicle that will be used to send the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS. At that time Orbital planned a hot-fire test on the pad at Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in late August or early September, followed by an inaugural demonstration launch in October and the first Cygnus launch in December. It’s mid-September now, though, and that hot-fire test hasn’t taken place. What’s up?

Orbital officials at the AIAA Space 2012 conference in Pasadena, California, this week, said they’re still awaiting formal turnover of the pad at MARS from the state of Virginia, which is building it. “It’s our anticipation that that launch pad will be certified and turned over to us in the very near future,” said Orbital’s Mark Pieczynski. That handover, Orbital officials said, should happen this month and could take place almost any day now. The delays have involved getting final certification from NASA of the pad’s systems. “The launch site is complete. It’s going through what we would call a ‘closing-out punch list,’” he said. “We’re simply at this point waiting for the state of Virginia to hand us the keys.”

Once Orbital finally has access to the pad, they plan to move quickly with a series of tests. As soon as a day after the handover, Orbital will roll out a test Antares vehicles to the pad, including a wet dress rehearsal. About two weeks after the rehearsal, Orbital will perform the hot-fire test. After a review of the data from the static test, Orbital will roll out the first flight vehicle to the pad, with a launch anticipated about a month after the static test. That would put that launch probably in the early November timeframe, depending on how soon they get access to the pad.

4 comments to Antares inches closer to launch

  • Coastal Ron

    Good to see that Orbital is going to be able to launch fairly soon after they get access to the launch facility. As things should go schedule-wise, SpaceX will launch their first CRS mission in early October, then all eyes can turn to Orbital’s test flight – which we all hope goes well.

    I’m looking forward to a redundant, low-cost cargo transportation system to LEO, of which Orbital is a vital part of. I wish them the best of luck in the test program.

  • Did MARS hire VDOT to build their facility?

    {inside VA joke for those of you not familiar with VDOT projects}

    • Larry Walker

      Actually, I believe the spaceport authority board is under the direction of VDOT (it used to be in the Dept of Commerce but it was moved). I can’t find a source link, but I recall that one of the reasons it was moved was because VDOT was better equipped to deal with projects of this sort.

      • Thanks Larry. Not much more to say except I’m familiar with the long wait for a project in Hampton Roads to be completed. It was started before we moved here in 1998. The Springfield interchange is still in progress and all the bridges across the James to VA Beach are under repair (except one) starting this week-end. Just in time for a big Air Show in VA Beach & I was hoping to go to a Model Railroad Show in VA Beach this Saturday too! :)

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