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April 17, 2013

NASA Wallops Gets New Sunshine with Orbital Antares

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

Wallops Island, VA -- Chincoteague horses and Ocean City, Maryland residents will have a ringside seat to NASA’s newest launch set for April 17 at 5 PM Eastern Time. If the launch goes as planned tomorrow, this remote outpost on the Virginia’s Eastern Shore will play a key role in supplying the International Space Station (ISS) in the years to come.

“It’s definitely been a reintroduction,” said a NASA Wallops official at a press conference. Certainly, it’s been any eye opener for media usually conditioned to travel to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  

 From the suburbs of Washington D.C., it’s about a 3.5-hour drive to NASA Wallop Flight Facility (WFF) and the commercial-side Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). WFF was established by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics – before there was a NASA – and today is the home to NASA’s suborbital program.

Over the years, over 16,000 launches have taken place from Wallops. Nearly all of them have been a mix of suborbital sounding rockets, meteorological rockets, test rockets and Department of Defense targets. Orbital has launched seven payloads into orbit from Wallops, three air-launched Pegasus rockets for ORBCOMM (News - Alert) and four solid-fuel Minotaur I rockets for the Air Force.

Tomorrow’s launch will be the first of five Orbital has manifested for the MARS spaceport. Tomorrow’s Antares test flight will be followed by a full-up demonstration flight to the space station by Orbital’s Cygnus cargo freighter under NASA’s COTS program in late June or early July. 

Assuming both test flights go without a hitch, Orbital will launch its first paying cargo flight to ISS by the end of the year under NASA’s CRS program.

 Orbital also has two solid rocket launches scheduled out of Wallops in 2013. NASA’s Ladee (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) will be sent to the Moon on a Minotaur V – the first planetary mission form Virginia – while the Air Force has contracted for a Minotaur I to put ORS-3 into low Earth orbit.

The Antares A-ONE mission will carry a mass simulator loaded with instruments designed to emulate the Cygnu payload. The first stage has two Aerojet AJ-26 engines fueled by liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene fuel, while the second stage uses an ATK (News - Alert) CASTOR 30 solid fuel motor.

Antares is designed to put 5,000 kilograms into the ISS orbit in its baseline configuration, with a solid motor upgrade later this year to boost that to 6265 kilograms. Over the lifetime of the NASA CRS contract, Orbital will deliver 20 tons of cargo to the space station.

Edited by Braden Becker

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