Ukraine’s Space Agency Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Ukrainian Dnepr launch vehicle. (Credit: ISC Kosmotras)

UKRAINE SPACE AGENCY PR — On February 28, 2012 in the UNIA “Ukrinform” held a press conference on the 20th anniversary of the National Space Agency of Ukraine with the participation of the President of the National Space Agency of Ukraine, Hero of Ukraine Yuri Sergeyevich Alekseyev, and the first director of the National Space Agency of Ukraine, member of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Academician Vladimir Pavlovich Horbulin.

National Space Agency of Ukraine was established February 29, 1992 by Presidential Decree of LM Kravchuk. This has allowed Ukraine to begin forming their own state policy in the exploration and use of outer space.


Meet Antares, the Rocket Formerly Known as Taurus II

OSC PR — Dulles, VA 12 December 2011 — Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that Antares™ will be the permanent operational name for the medium-class launch vehicle created by its research and development program formerly known as Taurus II. Orbital has been in the development phase of the new rocket program for the past four years. The operational phase of the program is scheduled to begin in 2012 with three flights on the manifest that will be conducted under the operational name of Antares.

“We are transitioning to the Antares identity primarily because a launch vehicle of this scale and significance deserves its own name, just like Orbital’s Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur rocket programs that have come before it,” said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The successful introduction of the Antares launcher, with its contribution to our COTS and CRS programs along with future sales to other customers, is a linchpin of the company’s long-term growth and profitability strategy.”


OSC Could Lose Seat on Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Board

Launch facilities on Wallops Island, Virginia

Virginia should invest in making the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island into a multi-use launch facility capable of handling missions for more than just Orbital Sciences Corporation’s (OSC) new Taurus II rocket, according to a new consulting report.

The review by KPMG includes a recommendations on further developing the commercial launch base and restructuring the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA), the state-funded organization which oversees MARS. One controversial recommendation is to strip OSC of its guaranteed seat on VCSFA’s Board of Directors, which KPMG calls a disincentive for other companies that want to use the spaceport.


ISS Cargo Delivery Flight Schedules Slide to the Right

Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station. (Credit: OSC)

SpaceX’s and Orbital Sciences Corporation’s schedules for COTS flights are sliding into 2012, according to an internal NASA manifest quoted by Space News:

Launches of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus 2 and Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 9 rockets, which until recently were scheduled for this year, are now expected to push into January and February, respectively, according to an internal NASA manifest. A second Taurus 2 flight, this one carrying Orbital’s Cygnus cargo module for the first time, is still officially scheduled for February, but the NASA manifest indicates a May launch date.

Both the Falcon 9 and Taurus 2, developed with funding assistance from NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, are expected to begin making regular cargo runs to the space station starting in 2012. But the rockets and their associated cargo capsules first must successfully complete a series of COTS flight demonstrations intended to convince NASA and its space station partners that the new vehicles can safely do the job.


Successful Test Firing Conducted on Taurus II’s AJ-26 Engine

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced today that along with NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, the team conducted a successful ground test firing of an AJ26-62 flight engine that will power Orbital’s Taurus® II medium-class space launch vehicle. The test was conducted at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.


Orbital Receives Commercial Launch License for Taurus II

(OSC PR – Dulles, VA – 31 August 2011) — Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that it received a Commercial Space Transportation Launch License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program demonstration mission in early 2012. An expanded license covering the test flight of the company’s Taurus® II rocket in late 2011 is expected to be granted in the near future.

To secure the license, Orbital was required to submit extensive technical and program management data to the FAA about its Taurus II rocket and Cygnus™ spacecraft to ensure that all necessary operational requirements and safety precautions are met. Among the many items reviewed by the FAA were the rocket’s planned trajectory, ground tracking procedures, onboard safety and flight termination systems, and the experience and training of the launch operations team.


First Taurus II Flight Could Slip at Least One Month After Engine Fire

Test Stand Fire Threatens Taurus 2 Launch Schedule
Space News

The fuel line that failed was part of the engine, not the test stand, the source said….The source, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the AJ-26  team investigating the mishap suspects a flaw in the metal used for that particular fuel line.

“If this looks like it’s a processing flaw when the metal was made, then the problem is probably just a one-off,” the source said.

Three AJ-26 engines have completed acceptance testing at Stennis and been delivered to Orbital’s Taurus 2 integration facility at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Two of those engines were intended to be used for an upcoming hold-down test of the Taurus 2’s first stage and then refurbished for the rocket’s second flight. The other engine already at Wallops was to have been paired with the now-damaged engine for the Taurus 2’s maiden launch, targeted for October.

That launch — a demonstration flight meant to help qualify the vehicle to launch cargo capsules bound for the international space station — now appears likely to slip at least a month since the next available engine still must undergo acceptance testing at Stennis, according to the source.

Read the full story.

Taurus II Engine Shuts Down Prematurely During Test Firing

Aerojet's AJ26 engine test. (PRNewsFoto/Aerojet)

NASA PR — An Aerojet AJ26 flight engine for Orbital Sciences Corporations’ Taurus II space launch vehicle experienced a premature shutdown during a test firing on June 9. The test was conducted on the E-1 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. Orbital and Aerojet are investigating the cause of the early shutdown. Stennis will perform checkouts to the facility to ensure its operational integrity.

“This is the reason we test engines here at Stennis before they are installed on launch vehicles,” said David Liberto, AJ26 engine project manager at Stennis. “Engine testing is a vital component of ensuring missions are successfully launched.”

The AJ26 engine test supports Orbital’s development activities to provide commercial cargo resupply flights to the International Space Station in 2012. The company is scheduled to demonstrate its Taurus II rocket and its Cygnus cargo transportation system in a mission later this year under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) research and development initiative.

OSC’s COTS Entry: An International Affair

Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II rocket and Cygnus freighter are almost as multinational as the International Space Station itself.

OSC’s new Taurus II rocket and Cygnus freighter is an interesting exercise in international collaboration. Key parts of the rocket and freighter are being sourced from suppliers in four other nations. OSC is adding its own considerable expertise and technology to the project and integrating all the pieces for launch from Wallops Island in Virginia. The system is being funded as a public-private partnership under NASA’s COTS program, which is developing commercial cargo systems for the International Space Station.

The graphics below show the origins of key elements in the system.


Video: Cygnus Flies to ISS

A video animation of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus freighter launching from Wallops Island and flying to the International Space Station.

Thales Delivers First Cygnus Pressurized Cargo Module to Orbital

THALES PR — Turin, May 30, 2011 – Thales Alenia Space announced that it has delivered to Orbital Sciences Corporation its first Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) developed to transport cargo to the International Space Station. This first PCM will be used for the CygnusTM demonstration mission, under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) research and development initiative with Orbital.


Orbital Sciences Eyes Vandenberg, Kodiak for Taurus II Launches

Orbital Sciences Eyes West Coast Missions for Taurus 2 Launcher

Space News

Mark Pieczynski, Orbital vice president of space launch business development, says the Dulles, Va.-based company has spent the past several months eyeing two launch sites on the West Coast that would allow the company to deliver medium-class payloads to high-inclination and sun-synchronous orbits: Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and Kodiak Island, Alaska. The company expects to decide on a site before the end of the year, he said.


Andrews Space Delivers Power Units for OSC’s Cygnus Freighter

Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station.

Andrews Space PR — Seattle, WA — May 10, 2011 — Andrews Space announced today that it has successfully delivered the first of four fight-qualified Cargo Module Power Units (CMPUs) that will supply power to payloads aboard Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft.


A Look at Cost Overuns and Schedule Delays in Major Space Programs

OSC's Cygnus freighter approaches the International Space Station. (Credit: OSC)

As part of Parabolic Arc’s ongoing Fun With Numbers Mega Tour 5000, we’re taking a look at cost overruns and schedule delays in NASA’s COTS and Orion programs and Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space tourism project. We’ll draw some conclusions about how progress in these programs bodes for the much larger commercial crew efforts.

The results may surprise you. Or not. But, they won’t be boring.

Ready to have some fun? OK. Allons-y!


ATK Receives Contract to Upgrade Taurus II Second Stage Engine

Artist's conception of Obital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II rocket set for launch at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia.

ATK PR — ATK (NYSE:ATKNews) was awarded a $57 million contract to provide the CASTOR® 30XL, an upgraded second stage motor for Orbital Science Corporation’s (NYSE:ORBNews) Taurus® II commercial launch vehicle, which will supply cargo for NASA to the International Space Station.

The CASTOR 30XL is a larger and higher-performance solid rocket motor, with greater payload capability than the CASTOR® 30A, which is used on the current configuration of the Taurus II. “The CASTOR® 30XL is another important addition to our expanding portfolio of commercial propulsion products, which include the GEM, Orion, and CASTOR® solid rocket motor lines.” said Scott Lehr, ATK Aerospace Systems vice president and general manager of Strategic and Commercial Systems. “We leveraged our heritage flight-proven and cost-effective technologies to develop a customized, higher-performing second stage solution for Orbital’s Taurus II launch vehicle.”