Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket passes Hot Fire test

Satellite-manufacturing company Orbital Sciences has a good reason to celebrate as the company’s Antares medium-class rocket passed the extended-duration “hot fire” test of its first stage propulsion system. The company is also planning to use the spacecraft to send cargo supply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a $1.9 billion agreement with NASA.

The key engine test, which was done at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0A on February 22nd, lasted for 29 seconds. The pad is specifically designed and built for liquid-fuel space launch rockets. The test is essential to guarantee that the stage one test article of the Antares rocket and the launch complex’s fueling systems functions properly in a fully operational environment. The “hot fire” test also proved that the engine ignition and shutdown commands function as intended, and that the dual AJ26 first stage engines as well as their control systems operate to specifications in the twin-engine configuration.

Orbital Sciences reports that the company will now exert its efforts into the first flight of the Antares spacecraft following its successful test. The inaugural flight is expected to transpire in approximately six weeks.

Under the contract with NASA, Orbital will launch eight cargo resupply missions to the ISS from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia using the Antares vehicle. The company is also examining the possibility of a west coast launch site to extend the market of A.

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