Via Orbital Sciences Corporation
Orbital recently completed an extensive series of cold flow propellant tests, also known as wet dress rehearsals, at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) launch complex at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The series of tests were performed to confirm that the launch complex’s propellant handling systems were performing according to specifications and were fully compatible with the liquid fuel first stage of the Antares rocket. With the completion of these flow tests, the Orbital team will begin to prepare for a “hot fire” test of the first stage, which is the final ground test before the inaugural flight of the Antares rocket. This test is currently scheduled to take place in February.
For the hot fire, Orbital will conduct a 29-second hold-down operation of the Antares first stage and its dual AJ26 rocket engines. The primary goals of the test will be to ensure that the pad’s fueling systems and the Antares stage one test article function properly in a fully operational environment, that engine ignition and shut down commands operate as designed, and that the two AJ26 first stage engines perform properly in the dual engine configuration. The test will include a full propellant loading sequence, launch countdown and engine ignition operation. The pad’s high volume water deluge system will also flow throughout the entire period of the test to protect the pad from damage and to provide general noise suppression.
After the test is successfully completed, the first stage test article will be returned to the Horizontal Integration Facility where the core and two engines will be refurbished for a later flight.