Two Antares Launches from Wallops Planned for 2016 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Two Antares Launches from Wallops Planned for 2016

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Antares rocket at the Wallops Flight Facility (Photo: WBOC) Antares rocket at the Wallops Flight Facility (Photo: WBOC)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va.- The repairs to the launch pad are finished and the finishing touches are being made to the Antares rocket.  If all goes according to plan, NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility could see two launches to the International Space Station in 2016 following the failed launch in October of 2014.

The Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft was launched on Oct. 28, 2014 and headed toward the I.S.S.  However, just a few seconds after liftoff, the rocket suffered a major failure and came crashing back down to earth landing just a few feet away from the launchpad.  The pad suffered millions of dollars in damage and the rocket left a crater in the ground about 30 feet deep and about 50 feet wide. 

But today, all of the necessary repairs, improvements, and upgrades have been made on the launchpad.

"The lightning towers.  Rebuilt some of the concrete, the piping in the area that saw heat.  So, you can take from the impact point [of the rocket] and sort of out in a radius on the repairs," said Dale Nash, the executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.

The launch pad is ready for rockets but the rockets themselves are not quite ready for takeoff.  The Antares rocket is getting some upgrades of its own. Previously, the engines used for the rockets were known as AJ-26 engines.  Those machines were old Russian engines that had been refurbished. Orbital ATK, the commercial space flight company that runs the Antares rocket program, has purchased brand new RD-181 rocket engines that will be used in the upcoming missions to the International Space Station.

"We don't talk in a whole lot of detail about what we found but I will tell you that what we've done with this new engine and the way we're testing this new engine fully addresses all of the issues that were the root of the Orb-3 failure," said Mike Pinkston, the general manager of the Antares program.

If all goes according to plan, there will be a hot fire test of the rocket on the launch pad in March.  Following the test, the first Antares launch from Wallops since the failure will take place in either May or June.  There will be a second Antares launch at Wallops in 2016 in October.

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