Antares Launch on Schedule Despite Anomaly

Antares Launch on Schedule Despite Anomaly

Orbital Sciences Corporation still hopes to conduct its first test launch of the new Antares rocket on Wednesday despite an anomaly during a wet dress rehearsal yesterday.

Orbital said in a press statement that yesterday’s test was halted at about T-16 minutes.  The company determined “a secondary pyro valve aboard one of the two first-stage engines” malfunctioned and it plans to replace the valve within 24 hours to keep the April 17 launch date.

Antares and its Cygnus spacecraft are competitors to SpaceX for cargo flights to the International Space Station through NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.  This test launch will not carry a Cygnus, which has yet to fly in space.  Instead it will carry a mass simulator.  Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, Cygnus is not designed to return to Earth.  Orbital is not competing in the effort to develop a system to transport people to and from space.  Cygnus is a one-way cargo spacecraft only, like Europe’s ATV, Japan’s HTV, and Russia’s Progress. 

Antares will be launched from Wallops Island, VA.  The launch window on April 17 is 5:00-8:00 pm ET.  If the launch is delayed, additional opportunities are available April 18-21.

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