Antares to Kick Off Busy Launch Period

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The launch of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket on Saturday morning will be the first of four launches planned over the next five days.

The Antares will launch a Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station. It is the second flight of the re-engineered Antares booster, which includes two Russian-made RD-181 engines in its first stage. Launch time is set for 7:37 a.m. EST (1237 GMT) from Wallops Island in Virginia. NASA TV will provide launch coverage.

ULA’s Delta II booster will launch NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) weather satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday, Nov. 14. The launch window extends from 1:47:03 to 1:48:05 a.m. PST (4:47:03-4:48:05 a.m. EST or 0947:03-0948:05 GMT).  NASA TV will provide launch coverage. It will be the penultimate flight of the venerable Delta II rocket.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch the mysterious Zuma payload on Wednesday, Nov. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Built by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. government, there are no other details about the spacecraft. The launch window extends from 8:00 to 10 p.m. EST (0100-0300 GMT on Nov. 16). It’s not clear whether SpaceX will webcast the flight.

China will launch the Fengyun 3D weather satellite into polar orbit aboard a Long March 4C booster from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday, Nov. 15. The launch window is not known.

Vector Plans 3 Orbital Launches From Wallops Island

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) additive manufactured injector by was successfully hot fire tested by Vector Space System on Dec. 8, 2016 using Liquid Oxygen/Propylene propellant (LOX/LC3H6). This work was performed under a 2015 STMD ACO Space Act Agreement. (Credit: Vector Space System)

RICHMOND, Va. (Terry McAuliffe PR) – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that Vector, a nanosatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, has entered into an agreement with Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space) to conduct three commercial orbital missions out of Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in the next 24 months with an option for five additional launches.

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The Year in Suborbital Launches

The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)
The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Although orbital launch vehicles get all the glory (and infamy when they fail), 2016 was also a busy year for the far less glamorous suborbital launch sector. There were 19 suborbital launches at various sites around the world, and two more sounding rocket launches of note where the payload didn’t go above 100 km.
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Orbital Launch Statistics for 2016

The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Ryzhikov, Kimbrough, and Borisenko will spend the next four months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The Soyuz MS-02 rocket is launched with Expedition 49 Soyuz commander Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and flight engineer Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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There were 85 orbital launches in 2016, not including the Falcon 9 that exploded on launch pad prior to a pre-flight engine test. The launches break down as follow:

  • United States: 22 (22-0)
  • China: 22 (20-1-1)
  • Russia: 19 (18-1)
  • Europe: 9 (9-0)
  • India: 7 (7-0)
  • Japan: 4 (4-0)
  • Israel: 1 (1-0)
  • North Korea: 1 (1-0)

For a more detailed description of these launches, please read US, China Led World in Launches in 2016.

Let’s look at launches by booster and spaceport and the flights that were required for human spaceflight.
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Antares Makes Spectacular Return to Flight, Cygnus in Orbit

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Orbital ATK’s revamped Antares booster blasted off from Wallops Island, Va., tonight, placing a Cygnus cargo ship bound for the International Space Station into orbit.

Antares made a spectacular nighttime return to flight after being grounded for nearly two years following the explosion of a similar booster in October 2014 that destroyed a Cygnus supply ship.

That failure was blamed on a turbo pump in one of the first stage AJ26 engines, which had been left over from the Soviet Union’s manned lunar program of the early 1970’s.

Orbital ATK has spent nearly two years re-configuring the first stage with newly manufactured RD-181 engines produced by NPO Energomash of Russia. Those engines did their job this evening, getting Antares and Cygnus airborne before giving way to the second stage powered by the CASTOR 30XL engine.

Cygnus is carrying 5,100 lbs worth of equipment, supplies and experiments to astronauts aboard the space station under a contract with NASA.

This is the fifth commercial Cygnus flight to the space station. The first two missions were launched by Antares. While the booster was grounded, Orbital ATK launched a pair of the cargo ships aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V boosters.

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Antares Readied for Sunday Return to Flight

Antares vertical on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital ATK)
Antares vertical on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Mission Update – October 14, 2016
3:00 p.m.

Launch: NET October 16, 2016; 8:03 p.m. EDT
Launch Site: MARS Pad 0A, Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia
Mission Customer: NASA

Orbital ATK’s OA-5 mission launch operations remain on track as the team works toward a night launch on Sunday at 8:03 p.m. EDT from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Given local weather conditions, the launch will be visible from the East Coast. Get more detailed information on launch viewing here.

The launch was expected earlier in the week, but was postponed as hurricane Nicole hit Bermuda where a launch-critical NASA tracking station is located. NASA confirmed today that the site experienced minor damage that has been repaired and the Bermuda team is preparing to support the launch.

The upgraded Antares rocket carrying the S.S. Alan Poindexter Cygnus spacecraft rolled to the pad yesterday and was raised to the vertical position this morning. Pad integration is underway.

The mission team will hold a Launch Readiness Review (LRR) tomorrow from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. EDT, which is when the final decision to proceed to launch will be made. A NASA pre-launch press conference will be shown live at 6:00 p.m. via NASA TV.

Watch this page for Orbital ATK mission updates, and get the latest launch information on our social media channels, including Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Facebook!

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OA-5 Space Station Cargo Resupply Mission Reset for Sunday

Cygnus approaches ISS (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus approaches ISS (Credit: NASA)

Update: The mission has been postponed to no earlier than Sunday, Oct. 16 at 8:03 p.m. EDT due to hurricane Nicole.

Mission Update – October 10, 2016

Launch Site: MARS Pad 0A, Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia
Mission Customer: NASA

In coordination with its NASA customer, Orbital ATK has rescheduled the launch of the OA-5 CRS mission for Friday, October 14. The updated schedule now includes roll-out of the Antares rocket to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad on Wednesday, October 12. Liftoff of the Antares rocket on October 14 is planned for 8:51 p.m. (EDT), with the rendezvous of the “S.S. Alan Poindexter” Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft with the International Space Station expected at approximately 6:05 a.m. (EDT) on Monday, October 17.

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Orbital ATK Conducts Successful Antares Test Firing

DULLES, Va., 31 May 2016 (Orbital ATK PR) -– Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today announced it conducted a full-power “hot fire” test of the upgraded first stage propulsion system of its Antares medium-class rocket using new RD-181 main engines.

The 30-second test took place at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) on May 31, 2016 at Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A. Initial indications are that the test was fully successful.

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Orbital Eyes Next Antares Flight in July

Two RD-181 integrated with the Antares first stage air frame at the Wallops Island, Virginia Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF). A “hot fire” test on Pad 0A is scheduled for late 2015 or early 2016. (Credit: NASA/ Terry Zaperach)
Two RD-181 integrated with the Antares first stage air frame at the Wallops Island, Virginia Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF). A “hot fire” test on Pad 0A is scheduled for late 2015 or early 2016. (Credit: NASA/ Terry Zaperach)

Orbital ATK reported today that it is making good progress on its upgraded Antares rocket, which has been grounded since a catastrophic launch accident in October 2014.

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Virginia Officials Hail Orbital ATK Commercial Cargo Award

The Cygnus spacecraft lowers into position atop its service module. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
The Cygnus spacecraft lowers into position atop its service module. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

RICHMOND, Va. (Governor McAuliffe PR) – Governor Terry McAuliffe, along with U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, announced today NASA awarded a new multiyear contract to Orbital ATK, a Virginia based company, to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station from spaceports, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) located at Wallops Island.

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U.S. Launch Providers Plan Busy Year in 2016

Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)

The United States has a very busy launch year ahead if all 33 flights currently on the manifest go off as planned. Given the tendency of launches to slip and rockets to occasionally go boom, that is a very big “if”.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX each have 15 launches penciled in this year, according to the latest update to Spaceflight Now’s Launch Schedule page. Orbital ATK has plans for three launches during 2016. (more…)

NASA Cargo Resupply Decision Set for Next Week

Cygnus and ISS robotic arm (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus and ISS robotic arm (Credit: NASA)

On Nov. 5, NASA will announce contracts worth up to $14 billion to fly cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) for 2018 until 2024.

Four companies reportedly remain in the Commercial Resupply Services 2 competition: incumbents Orbital ATK and SpaceX, and challengers Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation. Lockheed Martin has been reportedly eliminated from the competition.

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Launch Pad Repairs Completed on Wallops Island

An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket Oct. 28. (Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach)
An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket Oct. 28. (Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach)

NORFOLK, Va. (Virginia Space PR) – Today, September 30, marks the completion of the major repair work at the Virginia Space – MARS Launch Pad-0A, located on NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. This is a significant milestone in support of Orbital ATK resuming cargo resupply service with the upgraded Antares launch vehicle to the International Space Station for NASA.

The rebuild effort restored to flight readiness the facility and all systems that were damaged during the October 28, 2014 launch mishap. This work included repairs or replacement to the Deluge, HVAC, Fire Alarm, Electrical systems, Controls, Liquid Fueling Facilities and any damaged structures. The work was completed as scheduled, and within the overall budget while keeping a small management reserve for final system performance testing, which started September 25, 2015.

NASA to Build New Launch Control Center at Wallops

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia
Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to Harkins Contracting Inc. of Salisbury, Maryland, for the construction of a new Mission Launch Command Center (MLCC) at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.
NASA Logo.

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New Wallops Agreement Reached Between Virginia, Orbital ATK

An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket Oct. 28. (Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach)
An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29 following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket Oct. 28. (Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach)

NORFOLK, Va. (Virginia Governor’s Office PR) – Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today an agreement has been reached between the Commonwealth of Virginia and Orbital ATK regarding repair costs and insurance coverage following the October 2014 launch mishap that damaged portions of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). The agreement provides funding to complete remaining repairs to the pad as well as property insurance for future launches.

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