Some good news for Orbital Sciences Corporation on getting its new Antares rocket off the ground via Space News:
The outgoing head of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority said the group is on track to hand off a launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Wallops Island, Va., to Orbital Sciences Corp. this month.
Handing the pad over to Orbital would finally enable the Dulles, Va.-based rocket and satellite builder to begin flight demonstrations of its Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo module, the vehicles Orbital will use to fulfill a $1.9 billion NASA contract to fly cargo to the international space station.
“The last big test, and we hope to do that this week as soon as we get authorization to proceed from the range, is a flow test for the liquid oxygen,” Billie Reed, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority’s executive director, said July 10. “That’s the last thing on our list [before pad turnover] besides doing the final tweaks and the punch-list items for the things you find during testing.”
Besides finishing these fluid tests, the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority also needs a safety certification from NASA, which operates the Wallops Flight Facility where MARS and its three launch pads are located.
Reed, who is stepping down July 31, said the certification “should be wrapping up as well, if not this week then certainly early in the next.”
The completion of these tasks will allow Orbital to begin launches of the Antares later this year. The schedule is:
- Antares hold-down test: August
- Antares flight demonstration (without Cygnus): September
- Antares flight with Cygnus berthing at International Space Station: December.
In an earlier story, Space News had erroneously reported that the first Antares flight would slip to December with the Cygnus demonstration mission to ISS occurring sometime early next year. The publication has since corrected these errors.