UPDATE: Orbital Sciences has responded via Twitter: “That Space News report is incorrect. Test flight about a month following launch complex certification, which is close.”
Orbital is more than a year and a half behind schedule in flying its first space station cargo mission for NASA, which will be launched by the company’s first liquid-fueled rocket, Antares. Orbital says that the rocket would have launched by now if not for pad construction and certification delays it blames on MARS. The company has put $45 million of its own money into the MARS pad and related infrastructure…
Meanwhile, the first Antares hold-down test at Pad 0-A is now scheduled for September. As part of its fight demonstration agreement with NASA, Orbital has to complete that test before it can launch Antares on its maiden flight, now scheduled for December. In the December flight, Antares will fly without its Cygnus cargo module. It would not be until next year, when Antares flies for the second time, that Orbital’s European-built Cygnus freighter would fly to orbit and berth with the space station. The first Antares/Cygnus flight was supposed to happen in December 2010.
MARS, because of its close proximity to NASA launch sites, needs a NASA safety certification before Orbital can carry out any of these test flights.
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