PHOTOS: Antares first stage on the launch pad

Posted: April 19, 2011

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. -- The first stage of an Antares rocket was hoisted on its Virginia launch pad this week for fit checks and electrical testing, a key milestone leading to an on-the-pad engine firing and a first test launch later this year.

Orbital Sciences Corp. is leading development of the Antares booster and Cygnus spacecraft to haul cargo to the International Space Station. The first test launch of Antares is expected this summer.

These images show the Ukrainian-built first stage on pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island, Va.

The first stage structure, designed by Yuzhnoye and built by Yuzhmash in Ukraine, is based on the Zenit rocket. Two Aerojet AJ26 kerosene-fueled engines will power the Antares first stage.

An Antares first stage will be lifted vertical on the launch pad later this spring for a nearly 30-second firing of the AJ26 engines. The stage visible in these photos will be processed to launch on the second Antares mission, which will deliver a Cygnus cargo freighter to the International Space Station.

The final image shows the range control center at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, where engineers and managers gather for countdowns.

Photo credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now


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