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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Slows Work on Artares Rocket at Wallops Island, Virginia by Days

Artist depiction of Antares on Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad.
Threats of high winds and flooding from Hurricane Sandy are forcing Orbital Sciences Corp. to suspend tests of its Antares rocket and secure facilities at a coastal launch site in Virginia, a spokesperson said Friday, October 26, 2012 reports Spaceflight Now.
According to Barron Beneski, an Orbital spokesperson, workers at the coastal launch site are sealing doors on the Antares horizontal integration facility and closing access doors, disconnecting propellant lines, and safing systems on the rocket's first stage on launch pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island. The Antares first stage, designed by Yuzhnoye and built by Yuzhmash in Ukraine, will remain on the launch pad, Beneski said Friday.

“So the days we spend doing that and then restoring our operations are days we’re not making progress toward the launch. Unfortunately, this is something we just need to deal with,” he said as reported by DelmarvaNow.

After the hurricane passes, workers will resume Antares testing ahead of a 30-second firing of the first stage's two AJ26 engines. Several propellant loading, or cold flow, tests are planned before the hotfire to demonstrate the launch pad's fueling systems and rehearse countdown procedures.

Orbital plans to complete three major milestones in the next several months — an on-pad hot-fire test of the first stage this month, followed by the first flight of a fully operational Antares rocket in December and finally a demonstration mission to the International Space Station early next year.

Those will be followed by the commencement of cargo delivery missions to the space station in the spring of 2013 under a NASA Commercial Resupply Services agreement. Orbital in 2008 was awarded a $1.9 billion contract for eight flights to take cargo to the space station.

It is anticipated that during one of the cargo missions over the next two years, NASA will fit the Cygnus spacecraft with "space brakes" or the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) to seek to establish a controlled re-entry of cargo payload - now limited only to the SpaceX Dragon.

NASA Langley systems engineer Amanda Cutright explains the new High Energy Atmospheric Re-Entry Test (HEART)  now in development at the NASA Langley Research Center and being tested at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. It is anticipated that Orbital Sciences Corporation will test the new system with Cygnus in 2015.

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