Orbital ATK [OA] declared Tuesday’s full-power hot fire test of its re-engined Antares launch vehicle a success.
The 30-second hot fire test of the upgraded first stage propulsion system of Antares using new RD-181 main engines took place at 5:30 p.m. EDT at eastern Virginia’s Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), according to a company statement. The Antares engineering team is reviewing test data with NASA over the next several days to confirm that all test parameters were met.
Assuming the success of the test is confirmed, it will clear the way for the resumption of Orbital ATK’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions to the International Space Station (ISS) from Wallops Island, Va. One CRS mission, called OA-5, is currently scheduled for July. Orbital ATK spokeswoman Trina Helquist said Wednesday the company is working with NASA to determine cargo needs and will announce a launch date in coordination with the agency.
Helquist said the hot fire test objective was to operate the engines at each of the steady state operating points Orbital ATK will use in flight. The stage test, she said, was conducted with dwells at 100-, 75- and 55-percent thrusts. The company said in its statement the primary goal of the test was to verify the functionality of the integrated first stage, including new engines, modified Stage 1 core, avionics, thrust vector control and pad fueling systems in an operational environment.
During the test, a number of operational milestones were met including full propellant loading sequence, launch countdown and engine ignition and shutdown commands, as well as multiple throttle settings including full engine power. The test also validated the launch pad’s operation, including propellant tanking and the use of the water deluge system to protect the pad from damage and for noise suppression.
Orbital ATK will now purge and clean the engines of residual propellants and return the first stage used in this test to the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at Wallops for full reconditioning before its use on the OA-7 mission slated for this year. The Orbital ATK team will continue to prepare the Antares rocket that will launch the OA-5 mission, which is in the final stages of integration, systems testing and check-out preparation for launch this summer.