by Dr. Ken Kremer, AAAP, Spaceflight Magazine & Universe TodayNASA announced that the private Antares rocket from Orbital Sciences Corp. is slated to soar to space between April 17 and 19 from the newly constructed, seaside launch pad dubbed 0-A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The two-stage Antares rocket serves as the launcher for the unmanned, commercial, Cygnus cargo-resupply spacecraft also developed by Orbital. Both Antares and Cygnus were constructed under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to replace the ISS cargo upmass capability previously tasked to NASA’s now retired Space Shuttle’s.
In mid-March 2013, I visited NASA Wallops for an up-close personal tour of the impressive Antares first stage rocket erected at the launch complex following the successful 29-second hot-fire engine test in late February that cleared the last hurdle to approve the Antares launch. Umbilical lines were still connected to the rocket.
The inaugural Antares test flight is called the A-One Test Launch Mission. It will validate the medium-class rocket for later flights to the ISS. The first stage is powered by dual, liquid-fueled, AJ26, first-stage rocket engines that generate a combined total thrust of 680,000 lbs. The upper stage features a Castor 30, solid rocket motor with thrust vectoring. Antares can loft payloads weighing over 5000 kg to LEO.
Orbital won a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to launch at least eight resupply missions and deliver approximately 20,000 kilograms of supplies and equipment to the ISS; similar to the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon system.
I will attend the April launch of Antares, which is the most powerful rocket ever to ascend near major American East Coast population centers. The launch is open to the public. NASA Wallops is about a four-hour drive south of Princeton.
Read more about Antares at my Universe Today article here:
Powerful Private Rocket Crucial to ISS Set for Maiden April Blast Off from Virginia – Launch Pad Gallery
Outreach by Dr. Ken Kremer:
– Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF): Suffern, NY, April 20/21. “Curiosity and the Search for Life on Mars (3-D)” & “Retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles”
– Littlebrook Elementary School: Princeton, NJ, April 11. “A Trio of NASA Mars Rovers (in 3-D)”
– Washington Crossing State Park, Nature Center: Titusville, NJ, Apr 28, 130 PM. “Curiosity Rover Explores Mars (3-D)” & “NASA Future Human Spaceflight”