First launch of new Antares rocket scheduled for April 17
The first launch of the new Antares medium-class space launch vehicle, built for delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) by U.S. Orbital Science Corp as a part of international cooperation with the participation of Ukraine, is currently scheduled for April 17.
The launch will be made from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. The goal of the mission is to launch and deliver a simulated payload to a target orbit of 250 km x 300 km with an inclination of 51.6 degrees, Orbital Science Corp. reported.
According to the U.S. company, this will be the first of three launches of the new rocket scheduled for 2013.
Following this launch, Orbital will carry out a full flight demonstration of its new Antares/Cygnus cargo delivery system to the International Space Station (ISS) around mid-year. In addition, the company is also scheduled to launch the first of eight operational cargo resupply missions to the ISS in late 2013 under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA.
The Antares medium-class launch system will provide a major increase in the payload launch capability that Orbital can provide to NASA, the U.S. Air Force and other customers.
In 2008, Ukraine's Pivdenne design bureau and Pivdenmash (both based in Dnipropetrovsk) signed a long-term contract until 2019 with U.S. Orbital Science Corp. to design and produce the first stage of the Taurus-II rocket (today the Antares rocket) to deliver cargo to the ISS. According to open sources, the new rocket will carry payloads up to seven tonnes into low-Earth orbit.
The rocket is powered by two NK-33-derived engines. The program will be financed with the participation of NASA. Today the United States bought around 40 engines from Russia.