An Antares booster emerged from its hangar on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and rolled out to its launch pad Thursday for the first time since a rocket failure grounded Orbital ATK’s cargo launcher in 2014.
Targeting a resumption of Antares cargo launches to the International Space Station as soon as July, Orbital ATK plans to roll out an upgraded Antares rocket to a launch pad in Virginia this week for a 30-second firing of the booster’s new engines.
Repair crews in Virginia have restored the Antares booster’s launch pad — damaged in an explosive rocket crash nearly one year ago — to flight-ready status as the Orbital ATK launcher moves toward a return-to-flight in 2016.
The first pair of new Russian main engines for Orbital ATK’s modernized Antares rocket has arrived at the company’s Virginia launch base as engineers prepare to return the commercial booster to flight after a catastrophic failure last year.
The first pair of RD-181 rocket engines set to launch on Orbital ATK’s redesigned Antares rocket are in the final stages of acceptance testing in Russia ahead of their export to the United States in early July, officials said.
Space station resupply missions launched from Virginia are set to resume in March 2016, after Orbital ATK integrates newly-built rocket engines into the Ukrainian-made booster stage of the company’s commercial Antares rocket and puts it through an on-pad test firing in January.
Orbital Sciences Corp. and Energia have signed a contract worth approximately $1 billion for up to 60 Russian-made RD-181 rocket engines to power the redesigned first stage of the commercial Antares launcher.