Orbital ATK Antares successfully launches with a return to flight after 2014 rocket failure
Orbital ATK successfully launched the Antares rocket carrying the S.S. Alan Poindexter Cygnus spacecraft today at 7:45 p.m. EDT. The Cygnus spacecraft will berth with the International Space Station at 7:05 a.m. EDT on October 23.
For the OA-5 mission, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus advanced maneuvering spacecraft is carrying approximately 2,400 kg (5,290 lbs.) of supplies and science experiments for the International Space Station (ISS). Under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA, Orbital ATK will deliver approximately 30,000 kilograms of cargo to the space station. OA-5 is the sixth of these missions.
Cygnus was launched into orbit using Orbital ATK’s upgraded Antares launch vehicle from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A on Wallops Island, Virginia at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The upgraded Antares features all new RD-181 engines which provide increased performance and flexibility to the Orbital ATK cargo delivery service.
After being launched into low-Earth orbit, the Cygnus spacecraft will use its substantial maneuvering capability to transport the cargo from a low parking orbit to the ISS where it will be grappled by the station's crew using the station’s robotic arm and berthed to the station. After the cargo is removed and any disposal items are added, Cygnus will depart from the ISS, and begin secondary payload missions.
For the OA-5 mission, Cygnus will carry the Saffire II payload experiment to study combustion behavior in microgravity. Data from this experiment will be downloaded via telemetry. In addition, a NanoRack deployer will release Spire Cubesats used for weather forecasting. These secondary payload operations will be conducted after Cygnus departs the space station.
Two years ago a rocket failure was blamed on a turbo pump in one of the first stage AJ26 engines, which had been left over from the Soviet Union’s manned lunar program of the early 1970’s.
Orbital ATK has spent nearly two years re-configuring the first stage with newly manufactured RD-181 engines produced by NPO Energomash of Russia. Those engines did their job this evening, getting Antares and Cygnus airborne before giving way to the second stage powered by the CASTOR 30XL engine.
Cygnus is carrying 5,100 lbs worth of equipment, supplies and experiments to astronauts aboard the space station under a contract with NASA.
This is the fifth commercial Cygnus flight to the space station.