WALLOPS ISLAND, Va.- The Antares rocket WBOC first introduced to you back in May is officially on the launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Port on Wallops Island. It is part of a project some two years in the making and represents the future of NASA's space program.
While the first test launch is still a couple months or so away, the Antares will be the biggest rocket ever launched from Wallops, and will ultimately head to the International Space Station.
Now that the unmanned rocket is in place, the team with Orbital Sciences, the private company behind the Antares, will spend the next few weeks running tests to make sure everything is up to par.
"At the end of that four weeks, then we do what we call the hot-fire test," explained NASA Wallops Public Affairs Specialist Keith Koehler. "So, the rocket is actually going to be bolted down to the launch pad and they'll actually fire the engine for about 30 seconds to make sure that the engines and everything is working properly for the launch."
And that is just the beginning.
As massive as the Antares rocket might look now, it is still only in "Stage 1." By the time it actually launches, the rocket will be about twice its current size.
Once "Stage 2" is added, there will be two test flights before the Antares heads to the Space Station with a full load of supplies.
"The idea is that the shuttle has gone away and we want to be able to involve the commercial sector in taking supplies to the Space Station," Koehler noted. "That's what this rocket is going to be doing. And locally, it also means it's going to be a boon for the economy of the area."
Besides creating jobs, Koehler said the Antares is also helping boost area tourism.
According to Koehler, Orbital Sciences selected Wallops as its launch site based on cost and a long-term relationship with the site, going back to the late 1980s.
The Antares is contracted to make eight trips to the International Space Station by 2015.