The Antares launch system from Orbital ATK is back on track to head to the International Space Station next year, CEO David Thompson said in an investor call on March 3.
In October 2014, an Antares rocket exploded at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia moments after it took off from the launch pad headed for the ISS. Since then, United Launch Alliance has worked with NASA to complete Orbital ATK’s ISS cargo delivery contract.
Orbital ATK will return to all of its spacefaring duties, though. The company will test the new Antares rocket engines in April, with the first set expected to be delivered to the assembly base in June, Thompson said at the presentation held at the J.P. Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Industrials Conference in New York City.
The launch failure in October was due to a problem with the turbopump in one of the two Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ26 stage one main engines, Orbital ATK said.
The new Antares will have an Energomash RD-181 engine instead of the Aerojet AJ26, and its greater payload performance will permit the Cygnus spacecraft it supports to carry 20 percent more cargo, Orbital ATK said in December.
“There are a variety of other things that will take place in summer and fall, all culminating in final assembly and going out to the launch pad in January of next year for testing,” Thompson said. “And then exactly a year from now, will be the first launch into orbit of that upgraded version.”
In 2015, Orbital ATK plans to deliver 15 launch vehicles, 75 strategic and space launch rocket motors, and about 40,000 aerospace structures components, as well as 15 satellites, 30 research balloon flights, 100 tactical missiles, 1 billion rounds of ammunition, and other defense, flight and space systems.
In February, the $4.4 billion company was formed out of the merger between Orbital and ATK. It employs over 12,000 employees, 4,300 of them engineers or scientists. Orbital ATK’s customers include NASA, DARPA, Boeing, and Yahsat. They will soon be testing NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System, on March 11.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense