Antares Return to Flight Will Be October 13 if Matthew Doesn't Interfere – UPDATE 2

Antares Return to Flight Will Be October 13 if Matthew Doesn't Interfere – UPDATE 2

UPDATE, October 14, 2016:   The launch is currently scheduled for October 16 at 8:03 pm ET.  It was delayed from October 13 to October 14 due to a “minor vehicle processing issue…together with time spent on contingency planning for Hurricane Matthew” which could have come up the East Coast (but did not).  It was delayed again from October 14 to October 16 because of concerns about Hurricane Nicole’s impact on Bermuda where a critical tracking station is located.   There was little damage, however, and NASA/Wallops PAO Keith Koehler reports today that, as of now, the launch remains on track for October 16.

ORIGINAL STORY, October 4, 2016: Orbital ATK and NASA have agreed on October 13 as the launch date for the next Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  That date is contingent on the company completing pre-launch integration and testing activities and on the path of Hurricane Matthew.

A launch date range of October 9-13 was previously announced.  The launch time on October 13 is 9:13 pm ET.

This will be Orbital ATK’s first flight of the re-engined version of Antares, using two Russian RD-181 engines instead of Russian NK-33/AJ26 engines.   The company is retrofitting its Antares rockets with the newer engines because of an October 28, 2014 launch failure that was blamed on the older engine.  It destroyed the rocket and the Cygnus cargo spacecraft that was filled with cargo headed to the ISS.  That was the third operational ISS cargo mission for Orbital Sciences Corporation and was designated Orb-3.

Orbital Sciences later merged with ATK to become Orbital ATK.   While waiting for the new Antares to be ready, Orbital ATK launched two ISS cargo missions using United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket .  They were designated OA-4 and OA-6.

The upcoming flight, OA-5, was supposed to launch in between those two, hence the disrupted numbering system.

Antares launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA.   That is on the Atlantic Coast of the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia (DELMARVA) peninsula.   Hurricane Matthew, which is expected to inflict severe damage on Haiti today, is a variable that could change the launch date.  Forecasters are not able to pinpoint Matthew’s course after Haiti, although Florida has declared a state of emergency already just in case it heads in that direction.  If it comes up the East Coast, it could affect coastal Virginia and delay pre-launch preparations.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the original Antares used a single NK-33/AJ26 engine.  It used two.

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