NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, Va.—Orbital ATK [OA] has set the May-June timeframe for its Antares return to flight, roughly 19 to 20 months after Antares failed upon launch here at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on a NASA cargo mission.
Antares will return to flight here at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops, which Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority (VCSFA) Executive Director Dale Nash told reporters Thursday is back to normal after $15 million in repairs. Orbital ATK Deputy Program Manager for Cygnus Dave Hastman also told reporters here Thursday Antares has two additional launches from Wallops as part of NASA’s Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) program: one in October, designated OA-7, and another in 2017.
Orbital still has one more CRS mission to take place on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. This mission, OA-6, will take place in March, according to Mike Pinkston, Orbital ATK vice president and general manager of Antares. The company contracted with ULA for a pair of Atlas V launches following the October 2014 Antares failure to help fulfill its CRS obligations. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing [BA].
Hastman said Orbital ATK has three Cygnus space capsules “basically” complete. The company uses Cygnus to deliver food, supplies and science experiments to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of CRS. Orbital ATK’s recent CRS mission on an Atlas V was the first to use the company’s larger, extended pressurized cargo module, which Pinkston said was developed in Italy by Thales Alenia. Pinkston said Orbital ATK will use the extended pressurized cargo module for the rest of its CRS missions.
Pinkston said Orbital ATK is back at “full operational tempo” for Antares following the launch failure, which was designated Orb-3. With a pair of Antares rockets in various stages of assembly on display in the company’s Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF), he said the company has modified a core stage that it will use for a March hot fire test to accept the new Russian-developed RD-181s, which were also on display here for reporters. Orbital ATK has integrated the RD-181s onto an Antares rocket in preparation for the March hot fire test.
Also on display in the HIF was a transporter erector that Pinkston said works, though it suffered minor damage in the Antares failure. The top end of the erector was damaged, he said, requiring plumbing and electric cabling to be replaced, as well as some refurbishment to the arms.
Pinkston said Orbital ATK has spent the last months wrapping up the fixes to the transporter erector, though it had been working on it from time-to-time since it wasn’t of critical importance following the Antares failure. The transporter erector is a saddle-like vehicle capable of both delivering the rocket horizontally and elevating it into a vertical state.